Thursday, July 19, 2012

All Fruits and Vegetables Are Not Created Equal

They say ignorance is bliss but I question how true that is. The impact nutrition has on our health is a topic that Americans can no longer avoid. According to federal reports cancer is now the number one killer of all Americans.  It seems as if almost every degenerative and many infectious diseases are an epidemic in this country. Among the leading causes of death in the US are cancers of all types, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. All of these diseases can be prevented. The American lifestyle is undeniably a toxic one. I am sure many of you get discouraged by all of the different reports about what causes cancer. It can very well seem like everything causes cancer. Many Americans give up and take the attitude that everything causes cancer, there is nothing they can do about it, and we will all die of something someday anyway.

Fortunately, there are actions that we can take to strengthen our immune system and fight the carcinogens in our environment. You must begin to focus on a healthy lifestyle from the inside out. It must never be forgotten that prevention is much easier than the cure. Yet, unfortunately, Americans seem to be focused on practicing unhealthy lifestyle habits. Once we get sick we run to the doctor for medicine to cure us. Instead we should learn to focus on not needing the cure in the first place. It must be realized that illness is just the body telling you it is out of balance. Catastrophic accidents such as horrible automobile accidents, fires, wounds, etc. are a different story but metabolic and physiological problems manifest when your body is out of whack. In that situation the body must be brought back into balance or else the disease will manifest itself in other ways until you finally get the picture or just live a miserable existence.

Currently grains are the base of our food guide pyramid. The grain most widely consumed in America is wheat. Wheat has been shown to be linked to many allergies and sensitivities in humans. Most healthy indigenous groups did not consume wheat unless it was sprouted.  A compound called Gluten which is found in wheat has been linked to many auto immune diseases.  Most people have a problem digesting wheat and do not realize it. Native Americans cultivated and consumed other grains such as Arramath, Quinoa and Spelt…but not wheat. Thus, it would be wise to make fruits and vegetables the base of your personal food guide pyramid.  If you wonder how grains such as wheat ended up as the base of our food guide pyramid, we must take a look at who develops the food guide pyramid.  The US Department of Agriculture is responsible for telling us what we should eat. Most of the livestock are fed wheat to fatten them up and the farmers end up with a surplus of grains. Thus the USDA encourages us to eat all of the surplus grain so they don’t lose money. Grains are only meant for human consumption in small amounts and they should be sprouted first.

The major cause of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, Parkinson’s etc, and genetic diseases such as cancer, are free radicals. Free Radicals are atoms with an odd number of electrons. Thus, the atom has one unpaired electron in its outer most shell causing it to be unstable. All of the electrons in an atom must be paired in order for the atom to be stable. These unstable electrons are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. These highly reactive unstable atoms are on a mission to restore their energy balance by becoming more stable. This occurs by these unstable atoms snatching another electron from anywhere, and this is how much of the destruction to our bodies begins.

Most living organisms on planet Earth need oxygen to survive. Oxygen is used for many metabolic processes in our bodies and free radicals are created in many of these highly complex reactions. Most of the free radicals are restricted within the process and are neutralized immediately, but a few will escape. When a free radical escapes it goes wild in your body and destructively seeks an electron. These electrons can be pulled from your cell membrane and/or it can get into the nucleus of your cell and take an electron from the DNA contained there. Every cell in your body is creating free radicals all day, and once a free radical stabilizes itself by causing damage to another molecule the cycle multiplies because several more free radicals are then created.

This process leads to a mountain of damaged cells which causes the diseases associated with aging; such as many types of cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory function, cataracts, memory and cognitive function, age related muscular degeneration, stroke, immune system degradation, wrinkles (from the sun), Parkinson’s, Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Scleroderma etc. Free radicals can attack any part of the cell, each of which elicits a different consequence. Since free radicals are different they vary in their actions and how they are produced.

Free radicals are everywhere in the world around us. They can be found in polluted air due to ozone and nitrogen dioxide, cigarette smoke, some food preservatives, including nitrites, prolonged aerobic activity and fat metabolism to name a few. Free Radicals are so abundant in the environment around us that there is no way to completely avoid them. It is often hard to decrease your exposure to them in a significant way. Nevertheless, there is a way you can build up your immune system to combat free radical damage.

I am sure you have all heard the term “Anti-Oxidant,” and may not be quite sure what it is. Anti-oxidants work to prevent cellular damage by free radicals. Anti oxidants are molecules that can react with free radicals in order to prevent cellular damage from occurring. There are a numerous antioxidants found in nature. Fruits and vegetables are both abundant in anti-oxidants such as vitamin A (beta-carotene is a Vitamin precursor); C and E. Riboflavin (a B vitamin), Selenium, Glutathione; Cysteine and Uric Acid also have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can be found in real chocolate (not the processed milk chocolate), grape seed extract, green tea, black tea, spices, fruits and vegetables.

The brighter the color of a fruit or vegetable the more antioxidant disease fighting properties it has. The same compounds that are responsible for giving fruit and vegetables their color is also responsible for its anti-oxidant properties. Most Americans have been taught that they should eat leafy green vegetables in abundance. And this is true, but humans should be eating fruits and vegetables of every color (Red, Orange, Yellow, White, Green, Blue/Purple). Each color represents a different chemical compound, which means it is a different anti-oxidant.

As previously mentioned not all free radicals are the same and neither is all anti-oxidants. So while it is ok to take a multi-vitamin or an anti-oxidant supplement, the best source of vital nutrients is from the food itself. Supplements should only be used a few times a week as a safety net. It is absolutely false ideology to think you can eat a bad diet, and then take vitamins and think you will be fine. Each Anti-oxidant specializes in neutralizing a different free radical. This is why they are all important and we can never get enough.

The nutritional value of fruits and veggies can vary depending on the condition of the soil in which it is grown. The soil in North America is certainly over worked and depleted of many vital minerals and nutrients. The vitamin C content of fruits and vegetables is 50% less than it was 30 years ago. Adding to the problem is the fact that most of the fruits and vegetables in America come from California and/or outside of the country. One can buy an organic apple in NYC that comes from Washington state, despite the fact that New York is the Big Apple!  The longer an organism is dead, plant or animal, it’s nutritional value decreases each day.  California supplies the entire East Coast with many different fruits and vegetables and it takes a couple of weeks for it to be shipped by truck across the country. In order to do this successfully the fruits and veggies must be picked when they are not ripe so that they do not bruise on the long journey. Once they are in the supermarkets, many of them are kept cold in storage and when the store is ready to sell them they treat them with Ethylene gas in order to ripen them.  Thus, one can buy a pepper from the supermarket that has been there for about six months in many cases.

According to The Environmental Working Group some of the most contaminated fruits and veggies are peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, strawberries and spinach. These fruits and vegetables can expose you to up to 15 different disease causing pesticides. On the flip side, onions, avocado, pineapple, asparagus and broccoli have some of the least amounts of pesticides, exposing you to an average of 2 different pesticides.

The EPA considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. Pesticides have continuously shown to be associated with neurotoxicity, damage to the reproductive organs, immune system suppression, and malfunctioning of the endocrine system.
Cloned meat has been a new issue in the news but many Americans fail to realize that fruits, vegetables, soy, corn and wheat have been Genetically Modified (Engineered) since the early 90’s and about 80% of the fruits and veggies in this country come from genetically modified seeds.  Many companies like Monsanto are selling genetically modified seeds that contain a death gene. This death gene disallows that plant from reproducing so farmers have to keep buying new seeds every year instead of cultivating and harvesting seeds as our indigenous ancestors did and/or as Mother Nature does. When we consume fruits and vegetables with a death gene, those genes are now in our system and are free to break off and recombine as they please, wreaking havoc that has never been studied and will never be known. Corn, Cotton, Soy and Wheat are the most genetically modified crops in the United States.

The commercial fruits and vegetables are zapped with radioactive rays in order to kill any bacteria or viruses that may be on the plant. This process is called irridation and it also destroys much of the nutritional content of the fruit and/or vegetable. All commercial fruits and vegetables are then covered in waxes to keep them shiny. Even fruit like peaches which do not appear shiny are covered in wax and this wax cannot be removed by water and a produce brush…no matter how hard you scrub.  There has not been one single study to see what happens to us when we eat wax covered fruits and vegetables.

Another issue with consuming large amounts of produce from outside of the country or across the country is the amount of pollution it causes. Think about all of the major cities and little suburban towns on the east coast that are getting large shipments of California produce daily…and that is only the east coast!  This greatly contributes to the amount of pollution we are forced to breathe. It is important that Americans begin to think about sustainable agriculture because our current method is terribly inefficient.

Many of the workers on big commercial farms are severely underpaid and subject to horrible working conditions. For years I have noticed immigrant farmers, mostly from Mexico and South America, picketing in front of grocery stores about their inhumane work conditions and high incidences of cancer. The cancer comes from their exposure to hundreds of disease causing pesticides and herbicides. Purchasing local produce will also support better working conditions and small local farms.

Given the serious decline in nutritional value of America’s fruits and vegetables it is vital for each of us to eat local foods as much as possible. Many cities have farmer’s markets where the fruit and veggies were picked that day or the day before and come from just a few miles away. When you purchase foods from local farmers you not only.

It is recommended that most of your carbohydrates come from a combination of fresh raw and lightly cooked fruits and veggies and fresh squeezed juices. Only fresh squeezed vegetable and fruit juices should be consumed, right out of a high powered juicer. Commercial fruit juices are terrible for your health because they are mixed with high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners and flavors and the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals are no longer remaining which messes up the body’s ability to properly metabolize it. Fruit should be consumed alone because once swallowed the move rapidly to the small intestines where they are digested. One should be very cautious as to not consume fresh fruit or fruit juices with protein or starches because it can seriously inhibit digestion. Due to the fact, that the sugars from fruit are rapidly digested, mixing it with starches, proteins, and even vegetables can cause it to ferment the other foods and create a digestive mess in your intestines. Sweet fruits and acidic fruits should never be sweetened with any sugar or honey
“If you eat carbohydrates for lunch and proteins for dinner, then you may construct a very healthy lunch entirely of fresh raw fruits. This habit is especially beneficial for meat-eaters, for the fruit meal will provide active enzymes, fresh fibrous bulk and fruit acids to help clean the by-products of putrefactions from the intestinal tract and bloodstream.

When fresh, raw, non GMO, organic fruits are eaten alone and in abundance they provide lots of free amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and fiber.

It is important to make sure you do not overcook your vegetables or drench them in too much water. A large percentage of the water-soluble vitamins will leak out into the water. If you drink the water your vegetables were cooked in you can still consume the water-soluble vitamins. Thus, you want to prepare your vegetables in as little water as possible. Lightly cooking your veggies can help lessen some of the tight bonds that bind some of the nutrients in the plant, thus allowing your body to better assemble it. Ideally a combination of raw and lightly cooked veggies and raw fruit should be consumed daily. Fruit and vegetables are also high in water and insoluble fiber. Fiber is good for the prevention of certain types of cancer such as colon cancer. Fiber and water both aid in regular fecal excretion and they are calorie free ways to fill up. Fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol levels.

It is important for all of us to include plenty of fresh, non GMO, chemical free fruits and veggies in our diet every day. I would recommend including a huge green salad whenever one consumes meat, eggs, cheese or any other heavy protein and fat rich animal foods. These foods are not necessarily bad if they are from wild, healthy animals and are consumed at the right times in the right combinations. The food industry is spending billions of dollars year after year trying to figure out how to get into the head of the American Consumer.  They study which key words to use to brainwash us. Hence, you see yoga in McDonald’s commercials which leads many Americans to believe that a McDonald’s salad of fruit salad is healthy.  One major fact that all Americans must wake up to is the reality of food quality! It is the quality  of the food that determines whether or not it is edible and nourishing to your health. Humans are omnivores so we can survive off of a wide variety of foods, this can be both good and bad. Timing and combinations of quality foods is of vital importance.

                                                                                                           -Makeda Voletta


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