Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

4 May

The Plastic of Our Lives

Grocery stores are strange places full of even stranger food packaging concepts. Here’s some food for thought edible substance for cerebration (pitifully-unsuccessful-avoidance-of-pun alert):

Have you noticed how plastic continues to pop up in all sorts of food packaging? We all know that plastic comes from a limited resource; producing, trashing and even recycling plastic all have unpleasant consequences. And when it comes to health, it’s questionable if we want things like thalates in the same hemisphere as our food, let alone the same room.

Still, plastic persists: convenience remains the crowning virtue. (Although, in my opinion, the “convenience” of plastic packaging is still up for debate. This excessive layering is responsible for at least one post-gym “I need to eat!” meltdown per month by yours truly. Layering in fashion is one thing, but in food packaging? We don’t take food snowboarding with us, nor does food need to brave the indoor-outdoor urban trotting of a winter trip to the East Coast. Is this really necessary?)

But, truthfully, I hadn’t given much thought to things like these little plastic cap switcheroos…

oldtropplastictrop

Until I learned that there’s a permanent Texas-sized carpet of debris lolly-gagging around the Pacific Ocean’s northern gyre. Just call it Patchwork Pacific.

texas=

pacificocean

(These images are not to scale.)

This really bugs me. In light of our current health and environmental concerns, things like this new Kraft product are totally ridiculous!
parm

I know we’re all working hard and we’re busy, but do we need to be throwing away millions of plastic shredders that come attached to our cheese? I actually liked shredding my parmesan with my own shredder – you know, one that you don’t throw away with each block of cheese. I’m not saying I counted it as a workout or anything, but is it that inconvenient to retain ownership of a shredder that’s not physically attached to my Manchego? Is the extra arm movement required to open the drawer really so exhausting that Kraft feels they’re doing us a favor? Was this a gaping void in the marketplace of which I was unaware?

What do you all think? Perhaps your editor is being too critical of “food” marketers (using-term-generously alert). Perhaps the days I skipped macroeconomics as a slacker college student are coming back to bite me after all these years. (Darn that Professor Carter!) Enlighten me, Kraft!

Until the next shopping adventure, friends…

(Psst: just before hitting “Publish” I ran a quick Google search and found this very sensible review from the Accidental Hedonist, so I’m relieved to find I’m not the only one who thinks this product is both asinine and wasteful.)

4 May

Healthy Tastes Great!

Organic Yogurt with Almonds and Fruit

breakfast salad

Cut the brown sugar (Who needs it with all that naturally sweet fruit?) and you have a great way to start the day.

Can any Apples out there improve on this recipe? See you in the forum!

This one is for MDA member Larry Swift!

4 May

Quack Attack

I’ve gotten so many great health questions from you all this week, I’m still working through several of the emails. (Sorry for the delay – I haven’t forgotten you! I encourage you to post your questions in the Forum, so that along with my tips, you’ll get the whole gang to help you out.) There were a few questions this week regarding various quack products and FDA warnings that I’ve been asked a number of times over the years, so let’s set the record straight here at MDA.

1. Sandra recently asked me about transfer factor supplements – do they work, and should we be taking them?

“Transfer factor” is derived from bovine colostrum and is said to enhance immunity and muscle performance, among other claims. Like glandulars, this is a product without much to back it up. Not only is there no reputable scientific evidence, but it really doesn’t make much common sense. Cow’s milk is for baby cows, after all, and is designed by nature to be perfect for little calves’ growing immune systems, not ours. Although that’s even debatable, as most dairy cows these days are so crowded, sick and drugged up, I doubt they’re passing on much of anything beneficial to their offspring, whom they never meet anyway. A better way to boost your immunity? Reduce stress! Get exercise! Eat mostly vegetables! Enjoy yourself! Honest.

2. Lisa wants to know if oxygenated water is healthier than regular tap or bottled water.

Nope. I wrote a fun piece debunking these much-hyped “mock waters” some time ago, and it was published over at my good friend Gabrielle Reece’s site. You can also read it here. I’ve gotten some questions about reverse osmosis, bottled water safety (it’s coming, Evelyn!), and other H20 issues, so I’ll be posting a more in-depth look at all things liquid very soon.

3. I’ve also gotten a lot of questions about the current web controversy (no, not the Digg debacle): CAM regulation from the FDA.

Joe Mercola, no stranger to controversy, did what I felt was a very fair job of setting the record straight on this issue. (Note: I certainly don’t endorse all that he has to say, but this is a very balanced look at the current panic over CAM). The very knowledgeable Cindy Hebbard of Wisdom of Healing, politely refuted Mercola’s point of view after I recommended she check out his exploration of this issue. I encourage you to read both points of view if you’re curious.

The blogosphere is certainly hopping all over this issue. People’s response to this issue has been overwhelming – with the FDA extending, then short-changing, the public comment period. Health Ranger Mike Adams of NewsTarget ponders: will juice be banned? Will massage oil be available by prescription only? (Here’s what this science blogger I admire has to say).

I am a big proponent of being a squeaky wheel - nothing works better when it comes to getting governments and corporations to change. (That, and voting with your wallet.) And it’s no secret that the FDA is hardly a friend of natural living and often uses obscenely aggressive tactics against perfectly innocent naturopaths, herbal therapists and the like (just read Cindy’s response to me at her blog). Honestly, I’m glad everyone is picking up on this, because it’s a healthy sign of actively involved citizens.

That said, what the FDA is issuing is simply a (rather repetitive) guidance letter, not a regulation. The FDA doesn’t have legislative power, so this is more of a slap in the face than anything. Given that the rules aren’t being changed, it’s annoying, perhaps, and it’s indicative of the FDA’s attitude towards natural health, but it’s not really a “new” threat. Those of us who have been in the natural health industry have been aware of this issue for quite some time, and there’s just nothing scary here. Yes, the wording of “modalities” – meaning therapies – has been changed to “medicines”. But again, there is no cause for grave alarm. (And as you loyal readers know, I harbor no great and abiding love for the FDA. The FDA is the brunt of many a roast here at MDA).

Here’s the deal: as before, as long as any supplement or natural therapy isn’t making a claim of medical treatment or cure, you can expect things to be business as usual. For example, Mike Adams brings up cranberry juice in his blogging about this issue. In accordance with the FDA’s “new” guidance, cranberry juice can’t be marketed as a cure for bladder infections. It can be marketed as being beneficial for urinary tract health. But…this is nothing new.

Tell the FDA you’re unhappy with where they’re putting their attention and resources – but don’t panic. (This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep an eagle-eye on the FDA, of course. These are the folks who have a problem with stevia, after all. I’ve long noticed that new guidance issuances and sudden press releases about the “danger” of vitamins typically coincide with Big Pharma and FDA scandals. Trucking out sensational scares always makes for a nice distraction from the bigger issues.)

Stick around for a look at the environment and food packaging from Sara and a healthy recipe for your weekend brought to you by Aaron. Have a wonderful weekend, Apples!

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3 May

Wine & Chocolate: Now This Is News!

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Both wine and chocolate are in the news!

Glug, Glug? Yeah, Yeah

Yet another alcohol study. This one is all over the news: drinking decreases brain size. To be clear, for each level of consumption, the scientists found a .25 percent shrink. (That’s a fourth of one percent, not twenty-five percent…whew!). The levels were defined as the following number of drinks per person per week: 0 drinks, 1-7 drinks, 8-14 drinks, and 14 or more drinks weekly. In other words, the heaviest drinkers of all lost just over a percentage point in brain size.

We’re not big on alcohol around these parts, but this is one of those relative nutrition topics Mark takes with a grain of salt. Like chocolate and coffee, wine is one of those “marginally nutritious” issues that is endlessly debatable and ultimately not a huge factor in health, in the sense that there is probably some benefit to be gained from reasonable consumption thanks to the antioxidants, but don’t expect any miracles. It’s important to put these sensational stories in perspective: a lot of alcohol is bad, a little, on balance, is probably good; but ultimately, water, exercise and a daily salad is more significant anyway!

lichtandreher

This is Lichtandreher’s Flickr Photo

New England Journal of Medicineyness Reports

There’s a big ruckus over the bill in Congress that is seeking to limit pharmaceutical drug advertising during prime time television (enough with the puppies and flowers already). This is an excellent read for those who are interested. It’s freedom of speech versus direct-to-consumer drug advertising. Oh, the Skittles. What do you think?

Update: Chocolate

Earlier Mark informed you that Guittard is making an effort to keep fillers and trans fat out of chocolate. You can join the movement here.

choc 1

This is Roboppy’s Flickr Photo

Web it out:

It’s not just Cracker Jack’s that include a free prize!

3 May

3 Fast Foods That Are (Sorta) Healthy!

All right, I’ve had my ranting fun. Fortunately, there are lots of positive things going on in the world of convenience food, and I want to highlight a few of them now. Here are three convenience foods you can order when you’re busy and starving that are (in a pinch) healthy for you! Keep in mind, these aren’t winning any big health awards, but they are signs of progress. I wouldn’t make fast food a habit, but there are reasonable choices available if you are willing to look. And please share with us what healthy to-go items you’ve found.

1. McDonald’s:

Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken

A tad high in sodium, but on the plus side, a good amount of protein, fiber and only 300 calories. Leave off the sugary dressing! Jack’s Asian salad has more sodium, 100 more calories and several more grams of sugar, so…

2. Jack in the Box:

Chicken Fajita Pita

Only 200 calories, this light veggie-filled pita isn’t as full of whole-grain fiber as I’d like, but it’s a pretty decent choice. Con: this is very high in sodium, so don’t make it a frequent habit. (High sodium is the major problem with even the lighter, greener fast food fare.) Tip: Ask for extra veggies and hot sauce.

3. Taco Bell:

Taco Salad Express

Yes, I pick on these guys for having a “Fourth Meal” campaign, but their salads are all right if you leave off the fried stuff. Not winning any health awards, mind you, but a darn sight better than most fast food. Upgrade this salad to grilled chicken and don’t eat the chips.

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