bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Is frying vegetables the healthiest way to cook them?

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Image from Pexels. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

I came across an article the other day extolling the benefits of frying vegetables in olive oil. The article proclaimed that frying the vegetables was actually healthier than boiling or sautéing them.

Why were the fried vegetable purported to be healthier than the other preparations? Because they had higher polyphenol content (a type of antioxidant) than the vegetables prepared using the other methods. While I don’t dispute the findings (although the full article is behind a paywall so I can’t state that for certain and I do wonder where the funding came from) I do think that the comparison is disingenuous.

All vegetables were cooked for the same amount of time, regardless of preparation method. In reality, it would take differing amounts of time to cook these vegetables using different cooking techniques.

I also question the cooking methods selected. Why not roasting or steaming? We know that high nutrient losses are going to occur with boiling and at high temperatures as water soluble and heat sensitive vitamins are leeched from the veggies or destroyed.

The selection of vegetables is also curious to me. They used eggplant, tomato, pumpkin, and potato. Would it be because these types of vegetables would readily absorb oil that they were chosen? I’d be curious to see what the results would show if vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, or snap peas were used.

While an increase in polyphenols may be seen when these vegetables are fried, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should all start frying our vegetables. Frying increases acrylamide in food which is a potential cause of cancer. It’s doubtful that the increased polyphenol content from the olive oil justifies the increased acrylamide content.

Steaming vegetables until tender crisp is one of the best methods for preserving nutrients. If you want to increase the polyphenol content and maximize nutrition, why not toss your steamed vegetables with a little olive oil?

Have some raw vegetables, some roasted, some sautéed, some steamed, maybe some boiled or fried. Variety is an important factor in a healthy diet. That encompasses not just the foods we eat but how we prepare them.


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Licence to Farm Review (Rant)

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Photo credit: Randall Andrews

As a “consumer” this short documentary wasn’t made for me. It was made for farmers. Maybe that means that my opinions don’t matter. The beauty of having my own blog is that I can opine about anything I desire.

I had many thoughts as I watched the film. I’m very in support of farmers speaking out and as a non-farmer I often look to them for expert opinions. That being said, while this film purported to be about empowering farmers to speak out to me (and your opinion may differ) it felt like a thinly veiled piece of pro-GM (genetic modification) propaganda.

The bulk of the film was about how large-scale farms, GM crops, and pesticides are not bad things. The film urged farmers to speak out in the face of ignorant consumer demands. They also said that we (the unwashed consumer masses) need to hear about the benefits of GMOs and pesticides from the farmers, not from the companies making them. Personally, as a consumer I’d like to hear from both sources but even more so, from independent scientists who don’t have skin in the game. Sorry, I loathe that saying.

It bothered me that the implication was that consumers are too dumb to formulate our own opinions. Yes, I know, people are often irrational and misinformed. However, everyone is a consumer in some regard. Farmers don’t usually grow every single product they consume. You would think that there would be a recognition that a canola farmer (for example) while very knowledgable in that area is not an expert in all things farm. We are not mutually exclusive populations. We are all people. You don’t need to speak to us like “consumers”. Speak to us like human beings. Okay, despite how it sounds, that only bothered me a little bit. The thing that bothered me the most was the one-sidedness of the film.

Why does it seem like every documentary that comes out these days is wholly biased? I suppose it’s the funders, the sensationalism, or the certainty of the filmmakers that they’re in the right. Whatever the reason, it makes it me get my back-up, regardless of the message, even if I was on your side before I watched I’m less likely to be there after. If you’re only going to show me people who are completely biased then I’m going to be much less likely to buy what you’re saying. Don’t diss organic farmers and try to tell everyone that they eschew modern technology. Don’t try to tell me that only large-scale mono-cropping is a viable method of farming. Try to at least respect the choices of others; both within your field (haha) and outside it.


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Detoxify yourself, for real

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Back to that sage magazine for blogspiration… There’s a two page ad for an “herbal cleanse” entitled: Why do we need to cleanse?

It follows a Q & A format. The first question:

Doesn’t my body cleanse itself?

It’s true that our bodies are meant to naturally cleanse themselves…

If only it could have stopped right there and been like, “and they do!” But, that wouldn’t make them any money. Instead, the ad goes on to say that we’re bombarded with so many “toxic chemicals” which can lead to a “toxic overload”. Clearly, our bodies need help removing those toxins from our bodies <insert eye roll here>.

The thing is, your body does cleanse itself. What do you think your kidneys and liver are up to all day? Of course, your body can’t rid itself of all toxins but a cleanse can’t improve upon what your body’s already doing for free.

The ad goes on to instil a little more fear into all of us…

Every second, 310 kilograms of toxic chemicals are released into our air, land and water by industrial factories worldwide. These wastes enter our body, where they undermine its ability to function effectively, leading to symptoms including: fatigue, headache, gas and bloating, body odour, constipation, skin irritation and rashes, and sleeplessness.

Conveniently, these are all conditions that are extremely common and most of us can probably identify with them. This is how they get people to think “I’m tired! It must be toxins! I’d better do a cleanse!” Never stopping to consider that the reason they’re so tired may be as simple as they don’t go to bed early enough or they get woken up during the night by a crying baby, snoring partner, or obnoxious lovely kitty. Far easier to splash out $16 (or whatever the cost is) on a bottle of herbal cleanse than to improve current habits.

How does this magical cleanse purport to work?

Using cleansing herbs helps counteract this accumulation of toxins and wastes… The following “great eight” herbs are excellent for cleansing: Blessed thistle, Burdock, Kelp, Sheep sorrel, Slippery elm, Turkish rhubarb, Red clover and Watercress

Ignoring the fact that these are not all technically herbs, this is still a load of bullshit. Unless you consider pooping to be cleansing, as many of these plants are known for their laxative properties. Others are known for their diuretic properties. I hate to break it to you, going to the bathroom more frequently doesn’t mean you’re expelling more toxins from your body than you otherwise would.

The really great thing about their product is that you don’t have to adjust your lifestyle at all to reap the benefits.

You’ll often hear people say that they’re doing a cleanse or a detox, and then complaining about the difficult meal plan or extreme food restrictions. Cleansing your body doesn’t have to be a chore or disrupt your daily life. It can be as simple as making it a part of a daily ritual of drinking tea.

That’s right, you don’t have to follow some ridiculous diet to “cleanse” or “detox”. You also don’t have to drink an expensive herbal laxative diuretic tea. Of course, you’ll be healthier and probably feel better if you do just make healthy choices like eating more vegetables, getting exercise, going outside, and getting more sleep.

Instead of buying into cleanses, detoxify your life by removing unnecessary products and ignoring false marketing tactics.

 


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16 cancer causing foods: What THEY don’t want you to know

Oh Natural News with your fear mongering. Here’s the truth about the 16 foods you say cause cancer.

  1. Canned tomatoes. According to the article, it’s not just canned tomatoes, it’s any canned foods. Although, canned tomatoes are allegedly worse because of their high acidity. It’s not the tomatoes per se, it’s the BPA that leaches from the lining of the can.

TRUTH: We don’t know if BPA causes cancer or not. We know that it’s an endocrine disruptor and it may cause cancer but we don’t know for certain that it does.

Some canned goods are available in cans with BPA-free lining. Although rumour has it, what ever’s in the lining of those may be just as bad as the BPA one. You can also buy some brands of tomatoes in glass jars, or just go for fresh if you’re truly concerned. I would never want to discourage anyone from consuming vegetables.

2. Soda pop. They take a convoluted route to cancer causation by saying that soda increases the risk of reflux which can cause ulcers which are linked to an increased risk of cancer.

TRUTH: There are so many good reasons not to drink pop; tooth decay, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, but cancer’s probably not one of them. Even the article talks about other health problems correlated with (i.e. not necessarily caused by) soda consumption. So, even if pop doesn’t cause cancer it’s still advisable to minimize your consumption of it.

3. Farmed salmon. Farmed salmon often contains sea lice and are raised in confined contaminated conditions.

TRUTH: This is statement is true but has nothing to do with cancer. There is no link to farmed salmon causing cancer. There are also some clean humane salmon farms. As with anything, if you’re concerned about the conditions in which your food was raised/grown, get to know your farmer.

4. Processed meats. These contain preservatives that may cause cancer. Smoked meat contains tar from the smoking process that may cause cancer.

TRUTH: This one is true. However, it doesn’t mean that your will get cancer if you eat processed meat. It just means that the more processed meat you consume the greater your risk of developing cancer in comparison to someone who never eats processed meat. It doesn’t mean that you should never consume processed meat but you should definitely consume it less often than every day. A safe amount has not been set so you’re kind of on your own to decide how often you want to eat processed meat. I’d try to limit it to no more than once a month.

5. Microwave popcorn. A chemical used to line the bag has been linked to cancer. Also the GMO popcorn kernels may cause cancer.

TRUTH: The GMO thing is bogus but the bag liner is legit (see above note re: risk from eating processed meat). What are you doing eating microwave popcorn every day anyway? How about some variety? Have popcorn occasionally but when you do, make air popped or stovetop or even use the brown paper bag method.

6. Potato chips. Cooking potato chips at a high temperature creates acrylamide which is a known carcinogen.

TRUTH: Sniff. Unfortunately, this is true (again, that whole increased risk thing applies; eating potato chips occasionally does not mean you’re guaranteed to get cancer). You can make your own or make home made kale chips instead. Or, just eat them once in a while as a treat. You shouldn’t be eating them on the daily anyway.

7. Hydrogenated oils. “Hydrogenated oils influence our cell membranes’ structure and flexibility, which is linked to cancer.”

TRUTH: Partially hydrogenated oils are bad. Partial hydrogenation creates trans-fats but the harm from consuming them is an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, not cancer.

8. Foods that are highly salted, pickled, or smoked. “There is overwhelming evidence that eating these types of foods greatly increases the risk of colorectal cancer and higher rates of stomach cancer.”

TRUTH: Well, the preservative and smoked issue was covered under number four. Little bit of overlap here. Too much salt can lead to hypertension and heart disease. Again, not related to cancer risk.

9. Highly processed white flours. White flour is bleached with chlorine gas. White flour increases blood sugar which feeds tumour cells.

TRUTH: Bleached flour is usually whitened using peroxide, although some flours use chlorine gas. Did you know that chlorine is used to kill pathogens in drinking water and it’s one of the components of table salt (sodium + chlorine)? Not a significant cancer risk. Even so, you can always get unbleached flour.

I don’t know what minimally processed white flours would be. Flour is flour. You gotta process grain to get it.

It is better to consume complex carbohydrates to obtain more nutrients. However, eating a croissant isn’t going to increase your cancer risk. Glucose is fuel for all of your cells, not just cancer cells. Cutting out white flour won’t prevent or cure cancer.

10. GMOs. Just read the section yourself. It’s too hard to tease out anything from this convoluted web.

TRUTH: I think that there are many risks associated with genetic modification. Primarily to biodiversity and the environment. It’s unlikely that cancer is one of them (although pesticides used to treat GM crops, and other crops, quite likely do cause cancer). This whole section is pretty misinformed bullshit.

There are very few GMO crops in the US at the moment (and despite what the article says, they have been approved by the FDA). If you are concerned about GM then try to buy organic versions of common GM crops.

11. Refined sugars. (see number 9)

12. Artificial sweeteners. “There is mounting evidence that the chemicals that make up these sweeteners, especially aspartame, break down in the body into a deadly toxin called DKP. When your stomach processes this chemical, it in turn produces chemicals that can cause cancer, especially brain tumors.”

TRUTH: Artificial sweeteners have been proven safe in MANY MANY studies. That being said, they may affect your perception of sweetness and there’s always the possibility that there is some other harm that they’re causing. I’m of the opinion that they taste weird and you’re probably better off having a little of the real thing (yes, sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup…).

13. Diet anything. “All “diet” food is chemically processed and made from super refined ingredients, excessive sodium levels, as well as artificial colors and flavors to make it taste good.”

TRUTH: I’m not a fan of “diet” foods because it’s better to have minimally processed whole foods and fat. However, there is no evidence that “diet” foods cause cancer. Frustration and hunger maybe, but not cancer.

14. Alcohol. Alcohol use is the second leading cause of cancer, right behind tobacco use.”

TRUTH: Yes. This is true. Alcohol is a toxin. However, there are also heart health benefit associated with moderate alcohol consumption (i.e. approximately one drink a day for women and 1-2 a day per men). Pick your risk factor.

15. Red meat. Increases cancer risk; especially colorectal.

TRUTH: Yes, there is an increased correlation between red meat consumption and cancer diagnosis. However, it’s a very slight risk. As the article, surprisingly rationally suggests, you can still enjoy an occasional steak, it just shouldn’t be an every day food.

16. Non-organic fruits. The pesticides on them are toxic.

TRUTH: No mention of cancer here (just had to point that out). Still, many pesticides are likely harmful to humans and while some can be removed by washing, not all can. The thing is, you’ll find pesticides on organic fruit too, maybe in smaller quantities but some nevertheless. The health benefits you reap from eating fruit are likely greater than any cancer risk or other health risks the pesticides on them may pose.

The ultimate truth: We live in a carcinogenic environment. There are many things that we come in contact with on a regular basis that may cause cancer. Inciting fear in people about common foods is not going to help anyone avoid cancer. Continue to make mindful food and lifestyle choices and hope for the best. It’s all any of us can do.


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Should veganism be a human right?

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Last week the Huffington Post reported on the news that veganism is close to becoming a human right in Ontario. I saw some mixed responses to this news.

Rather than do my usual personal ranting, I thought that it would be more meaningful if the responses came from people who were more passionate about the issue. Certainly, I have opinions but I think that these perspectives might get people thinking about the issue in different ways.

In the vegan corner we have Jason. Jason is from Halifax and is celebrating his 20th year as a devout vegan.

In the opposing corner, we have Amy Matheson. Amy is a strong and vocal advocate of the Canadian agricultural industry, and is very passionate about our food and the farmers who produce it. She is part of a dairy farm and crop growing family outside of Stratford, Ontario. She can be found on twitter, with her nose in a book, outside playing with her kids and drinking strong coffee. 

Jason’s thoughts on the new legislation:

I’m beyond thrilled that the province of Ontario is one step closer to recognizing veganism as a human right. However, I’ll be even more excited when government recognizes it as an animal right. That is to say, only when meaningful legislation is passed that directly protects the animals, not just the people who want to protect the animals, will true progress be made. Nevertheless, this is still a tremendous step in the right direction and my hope is that this landmark decision will kickstart likeminded initiatives across Canada and will serve to open a new dialogue at the federal level, with regards to animal’s basic interests.

Amy’s thoughts:

Ladies and Gentleman, I think we’ve peaked.

​I think that we, ​as society, have reached the epitome of entitlement. Here’s why:

Vegan or not, can we just please agree on one quick thing? Any animal that you will find on any​ farm is totally, completely and absolutely dependent on us, the farmers, for their very survival. They are our responsibility, and it’s an obligation we do not take lightly.

The activist group Animal Justice has a mandate to end animal agriculture and that​ all animals ​used in agricultural production should simply be freed and allowed to frolic in the tall grass (meanwhile as while I type this, it’s -22 degrees here in SW Ontario). With that, ​they should be allowed to fend for themselves​​. That would not only ​be a breach of our moral obligation, but would mean unnecessary widespread suffering, and death. Okay, super?

 If you agree with Ontario Human Rights Commission’s impending decision to include veganism as “creed”, recognizing ones personal decision not to use and consume animal products, and you don’t agree that the money, time and energy used to make this a reality would be better used to ensure that all children, for example, have access to warm clothing, shelter and food, then I believe your moral compass is broken.   

 From where I stand, a creed that sets out to protect the right to not put pork on your fork is illogical and where does it stop? Shall we have a creed for people who chose to salt their food, use sweetener instead of sugar, margarine instead of butter, prefer blue cheese dressing over ranch?

If being vegan is a human right, isn’t being an omnivore, a carnivore, a red foods only-avore?

 Having this absurdity recognized in Ontario as a human right just further perpetuates the belief held by vegan and animal activist groups that they’re somehow morally superior to​ those of us who live our lives stewarding the land and the animals in our care.

 I want the freedom to farm without vilification. I want the freedom to continue to do so without interference so that one day our children will live off the land that’s been in this family for over 100 years, and to know what it is to care for a newborn animal.

​And that​, that is my “creed”.

What do you think?