Film Review: ‘Food, Inc.’

‘Food, Inc.’ is a documentary that came out in 2008. It is a famous film that details how America’s corporate-controlled food industry is bullying local farmers and consumers.
“We have never had food industries this powerful in history,” the film says. The documentary goes all over the United States to unveil how monopolies in the food industry is hurting animals, killing children, taking farmer’s jobs away and creating nutritionally-empty food.
The production of food nowadays has drastically changed since several thousand years ago. The global food production business depends largely on a handful of multinational corporations. Large quantities of food is produced at low cost, resulting in enormous profits. The health and safety of the food, farm animals, farm workers and consumers is largely overlooked by the government, resulting in a global food crisis with lack of biodiversity.
Filmed stylishly, the documentary is eloquently narrated and is very motivational in encouraging viewers to join in “changing the system”. The is one of the best documentaries that I have viewed and is an important one that will continue to affect consumers over the years.
Photo Credits: Food Inc

Photo Credits: Food Inc

Want me to review a documentary? Let me know in the comments section below, I moderate within 24 hours! 🙂

 

The 5 Ways Sugar Can Kill You (Actually)

Photo Credits: Paul

Photo Credits: Paul

Dr. Lewis Cantley, American cell biologist and biochemist at the Departments of Systems Biology and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, once famously said, “Sugar scares me.”
Are you in any way scared of how sugar is added to almost every processed food we can lay our hands on? This documentary: ‘Fed Up’, produced by Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’), gives you a taste of how the food industry, aided by the U.S. government, is out to mislead and confuse the public, resulting in one of the largest health epidemics in history, all because of simple stupid sugar. I am so excited to watch it when it comes out.

 

Sugar is scary basically because of its high amount of sugar fructose. This simple element can overturn our metabolism system. To simplify the reasons why sugar is frightening, here are five points of how sugar wrecks our bodies:
Photo Credits: Tripp
Photo Credits: Tripp

1. High Cholesterol and Fat Buildup

Consumed in excess, added sugar causes high cholesterol and triglycerides, resistance to the peptide hormone insulin (produced in the pancreas, central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body) and creates fat buildup in the liver and abdominal cavity. The time needed to cause significant damage in these areas is as little as 10 weeks. Added sugar and high fructose corn syrup is believed to be the reason for some of the world’s leading chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
Photo Credits: Digital Wallpapers
Photo Credits: Digital Wallpapers

2. Added Sugar is found even in ‘Healthy’ Products.

Let us assume that after reading this blog post, you want to start intentionally eating an all-healthy diet. You go into the supermarket, trying to look for ‘health’ foods. You might walk past an aisle of fruit juices and wonder: fruit juices cannot be that bad, right? In fact, fruit juices are considered processed foods in this day an age. Aside from having small amounts of real fruit in them, often the main ingredients are: water, artificial flavour and, yes, sugar. Orange juice contains the same amount of sugar as Coca Cola. With no fiber in bottled fruit juices, there is no chewing resistance while drinking it and it causes us to down massive amounts of sugar in a short amount of time. Instead of drinking conventional brand-name fruit juices, it is much better to press fresh, organic fruits at home. For a list of colour-coded fruits and vegetables (it is recommended to press fruits and vegetables of the same colour in the juicer at once to reap the most health benefits), check out my earlier blog post ‘The Fruits & Vegetables Colour Wheel’.
Photo Credits: Anna
Photo Credits: Anna

3. Sugar is Addictive.

According to Eric Stice, Clinical Psychology Ph.D. at the Oregon Research Institute, sugar can be addictive. Using magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) scans, he evaluated what happens in the brain when people eat sugar. He discovered that sugar causes stimulation of the reward centres in the brain in a similar manner as drugs of abuse like cocaine. This is consistent with other studies on rats, showing that sugar causes many of the same effects. This rewarding effect is blunted in obese individuals, which means they have to consume even more sugar to achieve satisfaction. The fact that sugar shares many of the same features as drugs of abuse shows amongst all of us, we binge on it, crave it obsessively and lose control over our consumption. Our brains become dependant on the dopamine releasing effects of the sugar we are eating, leading to full-blown global addiction.
Photo Credits: monkeyc.net
Photo Credits: monkeyc.net

4. Industries Go Great Lengths to Confuse

The goal of the sugar industry is to call into question any claim of harm from consuming high fructose corn syrup, and to confuse and deflect by calling their product natural ‘corn sugar’. Imagine if we call crack cocaine natural herbal treatment. Even physicians receive pamphlets from, say, the Corn Refiners Association, that promotes high-fructose corn syrup, saying it is safe and no different from cane sugar. 700,000 physicians in America receive the same propaganda. The sugar industry is spending millions on misinformation campaigns to convince us that sugar is safe.
Photo Credits: Steven Vance
Photo Credits: Steven Vance

5. High Fructose Corn Syrup is Another Form of Toxic Sugar

High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product and is not a natural substance. It is extracted from corn stalks. The process was investigated on by journalist and author Michael Pollan, but was not allowed even a glimpse by global food-processing corporation Archer Daniels Midland and food company Carghill. High fructose corn syrup is cheaper than normal sugar because of the government farm bill corn subsidies, resulting in products with high fructose corn syrup being sweeter and cheaper than products made with cane sugar. This is why sodas ballooned from eight ounces to 20 ounces with little financial costs to manufacturers. High doses of free fructose in high fructose corn syrup have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining, which allows toxic gut bacteria byproducts and partially digested food proteins to enter your blood stream and trigger inflammation. This inflammation is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and accelerated aging.

 

Sugar’s ability to affect our body’s normal and natural functions negatively can be overwhelming. However, there are still ways to minimize consumption of artificial sugars. Buy from local farmers markets, cook your own food with wholesome, organic materials. The fight for health starts with each individual.

 

Do you feel paralyzed by how scary the food industry is or do you feel motivated to seek more about the truth about our food? Let me know in the comments section below! 

 

 

The 3 Hidden Dangers of Sunscreen

Photo Credits: Pascal

Photo Credits: Pascal

What if I told you that a whole foods, plant-based diet keeps you from harm’s way when you sunbathe more so than conventional sunscreen? Have you ever wondered how humans, through evolution, were able to live with the sun’s strong rays even before sunscreen lotion was invented?
Life relies on solar power to live. Plants harness solar power through photosynthesis in leaves, animals live off the energy and nutrients and plants. Plants, animals and us live in a close, connected relationship with the sun. Yet today, sunscreen manufacturers would have us believe that the sun is our enemy because it gives us cancer. We trust the chemicals in sunscreen to safeguard our health. As a result, sunscreen reaped $687 million in 2010 in profits.

 

In fact, using sunscreen has many dangers, here are the three main ones:
Photo Credits: Life Mental Health

Photo Credits: Life Mental Health

1.It shuts down our natural production of vitamin D.

Using sunscreen actually cuts down the production of vitamin D in our bodies, which was meant as a natural process when we are exposed to the sun. Even a thin sunscreen layer spares our ability to produce this vital nutrient. A 2012 article in the British Journal of Dermatology concludes, “When the amount of sunscreen and Sun Protection Factor (SPF) advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) is used, vitamin D production may be abolished. Re-evaluation of sun protection strategies could be warranted.”
Photo Credits: CGP Grey

Photo Credits: CGP Grey

2. It feeds us harmful chemicals.

In sunscreen, the ingredients used have an effect on our body that is similar to the hormone estrogen. For women, the more sunscreen ingredient residues we have in our body, the more likely we are to develop endometriosis. In a study in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, it was found that the mixture of chemicals in sunscreen had a more potent estrogenic effect than each chemical had alone. A European study has also found that after sunscreen was applied three times a day for five days, the skin had absorbed the chemicals and was itself resistant to ultraviolet light. These chemicals could also get into natural waterways when sunscreen-coated people swim in them. The chemicals resist degradation in the environment and could be detected in fish. Reproductive defects in wildlife, especially amphibians have also been liked to sunscreen residues.
Photo Credits: DES Daughter

Photo Credits: DES Daughter

3. It does not stop us from having skin cancer.

More than two million Americans develop skin cancer annually, and the rates are still rising. Some studies have found that an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, was amongst those who use more sunscreen. Even though it is important to avoid getting sunburned, which does increase the risk of melanoma, we should also gradually build up to longer sun exposure as our body generates its natural defence against the sun’s potential to damage our skin. Foods high in antioxidants such as green tea, vegetables and fruits lower the risk of skin cancer. A whole food, plant-based diet slows skin aging and is easier to follow than having to cover ourselves with layers of lotions every few hours.

 

Information source: The Perfect Formula Diet. “Six Hidden Dangers of Sunscreen You Must Know for Summer”, by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. (2012)

Are you convinced to start using organic, natural sunscreens or a plant-based diet to ward yourself from skin cancer? Let me know in the comments section below! I moderate comments within 24 hours!

5 Best Foods for the Summer

Photo Credits: Raffaele Camardella

Photo Credits: Raffaele Camardella

Beach body time! Summer is the time we all want to slim down and eat better. To prep ourselves for our beach vacays, we tend to only focus on whether are bodies are bathing-suit ready. Looking good in our swimsuits is not as important as eating well so we look and feel great about ourselves.
In every season, we should find out which produce is in its harvesting period at that time, so that we get the freshest local wholesome foods available. Here are five fresh, in-season summer foods that will help you get your health and your body.

 

Photo Credits: Riza Nugraha 

Photo Credits: Riza Nugraha 

1. STRAWBERRIES

A cup of halved strawberries gives us more than a full day’s recommended dose of vitamin C – an antioxidant that helps keep your skin looking younger. Mash them into smoothies with organic bananas (trust me, it is way better than non-organic ones) or sprinkle them onto salad greens for a colourful summer meal.
Photo Credits: sharyn morrow

Photo Credits: sharyn morrow

2. ZUCCHINI

Zucchini contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that accumulate in the eyes and help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Grilled zucchinis go great with walnuts, you can also make zucchini and summer squash stew, yum!
Photo Credits: amanda tipton

Photo Credits: amanda tipton

3. CORN

Yay to corns on the cob! Other than fibre, corn also provides eye-health phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin. A quick, easy way to eat corn is to put it on a saucepan with water, enough to cover the base of the corn and cook covered for about seven minutes, then you can take it out, add herbs, salt and pepper, and voila! Perfect summer treat!
Photo Credits: Markus Stöber

Photo Credits: Markus Stöber

4. RASPBERRIES

Raspberries contain soluble fibre in the form of pectin, a natural fibre found in plant cell walls and most concentrated in the skin of fruits, which helps lower cholesterol. Raspberries are great mixed with other fruits like mangos, blueberries and blackberries, or blended with strawberries, bananas and cherries as a fresh smoothie.
Photo Credits: Caro Wallis

Photo Credits: Caro Wallis

5. CHERRIES

I just had the sweetest, plumpest batch of organic cherries just last night. Summer is the best time to having cherries because they are so ripe, readily available and delicious. In addition to having a high water and fiber content, cherries also have anti-inflammatory effects that help with weight loss. As an added bonus, cherries are high in antioxidants and are linked to improved sleep, which should also help regulate your emotions.

 

Like this list of summer foods? Let me know if you have other suggestions for natural summer treats! I moderate comments within 24 hours! 🙂

5 Tips to Understanding How Hormones Affect Us

Somehow hormones have been connected to females in some strange way. When guys complain about their girlfriends throwing tantrums, they usually conclude it is due to one mysterious source: female ‘hormones’. Other than being the alleged reason for irritability and uncalled-for anger, an imbalance hormones are also linked to all sorts diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endocrine disorders, Addison’s disease, thyroid hormone disorders and more.
So what is up with all this hormonal-imbalance talk? How can we consciously ‘balance’ our hormones out, so to speak? Well, let me try to lay out a five-point guideline to understanding how hormones in our bodies could affect us, for better or for worse:

 

Photo Credits: Jacob Bøtter

Photo Credits: Jacob Bøtter

1. The Stress Hormone Cortisol

If you have a demanding job, a family who needs you, a never-ending to-do list or even a demanding or needy parent, chances are, you feel tired, depressed, anxious or irritable because you are stressed. Perhaps you cannot sleep and end up eating too much every day. These are symptoms of chronic stress. Stress makes us either become all tensed up or want to run away. Our bodies respond with faster heart rates and shortening of breath. The stress hormone cortisol is released during this response.
Cortisol kicks up your appetite in a way that not only makes you want to eat huge quantities, but especially sweets and carbohydrates-foods. This is because your body is prone to make insulin levels spike and then quickly plummet, leaving you feeling hungrier than ever and eating again. This is why some people say they stress-eat. To de-stress, check out my previous article ‘5 Sure-Fire Ways of De-Stressing’. For reasons on why meditation is healthy and needed, check out ‘Why Spirituality Cannot be Segregated from A Healthy Body’.
Photo Credits: Tambako The Jaguar

Photo Credits: Tambako The Jaguar

2. Sleep Affects our Hormones Greatly

I am so cranky after a poor night’s sleep that I feel like I should not talk to anyone. Sleep loss actually dramatically disrupts hormones that control our eating habits and our metabolism. In a University of Chicago’s Department of Medicine study, 11 men who were suffering from sleep debt had impaired abilities to process glucose, as much as people with type 2 diabetes. This indicates that sleep debt could lead to resistance of the peptide hormone insulin, which is linked to obesity. During the afternoons that followed a sleep-deprived night, the men also had consistently elevated levels of cortisol, which encourages cells to store more fat. Levels of the thyroid hormone that powers metabolism rates were also lowered during sleep deprivation.
Photo Credits: Neil Moralee

Photo Credits: Neil Moralee

3. Healthy Diet = Healthy Hormones

A healthy diet is extremely positive on hormone levels. A diet that is loaded with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, with a minimized intake of red meat and processed foods can keep our blood sugar levels stable. Beans, brown rice and whole grains take a longer time to digest, so insulin levels rise gradually, blood sugar levels remain steady, which allows the adrenal glands to rest and not create so much cortisol. What also helps is to eat five or six smaller meals spaced out evenly throughout the day instead of three big meals plus random snacks. By eating smaller yet more frequent meals, growth hormones can be triggered, which helps keep the body’s metabolism efficient.
Photo Credits: Kevin Dooley

Photo Credits: Kevin Dooley

4. Move It!

Our muscles are loaded with insulin receptors. Insulin is a peptide hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas to regulate carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. The more muscle mass we have and the more heat we generate from our muscles on a regular basis, the more efficiently we will produce insulin and burn fat. Working up a good sweat also activates “feel good” neurotransmitter and hormone dopamine, which reduces the symptoms of depression. It is recommended that 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking or bicycling at least five times a week helps with body fitness.
Photo Credits: lobstar28

Photo Credits: lobstar28

5. Yes, PMS Is True

Women might find that every month when they have their periods they are driven to the cookie jar. It is absolutely normal to experience food cravings around the time of our periods. The menstrual cycle delivers a double whammy of two different female hormone groups increasing at the same time: sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, and stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine (more commonly known as adrenaline). These changes drive up women’s appetites and prompts us to eat the kinds of foods that increase our insulin levels. To prevent premenstrual syndrome, skin breakouts, headaches or intestinal distress, the key is to eliminate artificial sweeteners, avoid foods that stress our adrenal glands (e.g. alcohol and caffeine), eat nutrient-rich, organic, wholesome foods such as oranges, almonds, spinach and kale.

 

Think you learned more about hormones in this blog post? Keep in mind I am not a health professional and can only talk about basic facts / personal experience! Let me know what you think in the comments section below! 

 

A Guide to When We Need Water and When We Don’t

Photo Credits: mumucs

Photo Credits: mumucs

Water is awesome. I love how many functions it has: showering, drinking, swimming in, cleaning the dishes, being a habitat for fish, making beaches so beautiful.
We know that we should drink at least eight glasses of water per day, but that takes a lot of discipline: how many of us could keep up with remembering to hydrate ourselves again and again and again every other hour? Well here is another controversial claim: we do not need eight glasses of water per day.
In 2011, Dr. Margaret McCartney, a general practitioner from Glasgow, Scotland, wrote a commentary for the British Medical Journal arguing that the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day is “thoroughly debunked nonsense” being spread by bottled water companies in order to churn up more profit. She pointed out that Hydration for Health, an initiative to promote drinking more water, is sponsored and created by French food giant Danone, which produces Volvic, Evian and Badoit bottled waters. Even Michelle Obama’s campaign Drink Up announced in July 2014 with the message that everyone can benefit from drinking more water, is sponsored by numerous bottled-water makers.
While being essential to good health, the need for water varies by an individual’s health, how active he is and where he lives. Here is a simplified guide to when we need water and when we do not:

WHEN WE NEED WATER:

Photo Credits: Sergio Tudela Romero

Photo Credits: Sergio Tudela Romero

To flush out toxins

Water makes up about 60 percent of our body weight, it is our body’s principal chemical component. Every system in our body depends on water to carry nutrients to our cells and provide moist environments for ear, nose and throat tissues. Also, water is key to flushing toxins out of vital organs. We lose water through our breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. In today’s society where we consume most of what is junk: saturated fats, synthetic chemicals, pesticides and herbicides in food produce, we badly need water to flush out all the toxins in our bodies. On the contrary, when our diets consist mainly of organic, fresh, locally-sourced vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains, we need less water because we are consuming raw, wholesome, nutritious foods that contain minimal harmful substances in them.
Photo Credits: Yasmina

Photo Credits: Yasmina

When we are ill

When we are having a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, our body loses additional fluids. In these cases, we should drink more water. We may also need to increase fluid intake if we develop certain conditions, including bladder infections or urinary tract stones. On the other hand, heart failure and some types of kidney, liver and adrenal diseases may impair excretion of water and even require that we limit drinking water.

WHEN WE DO NOT NEED WATER:

Photo Credits: Nathan Rupert

Photo Credits: Nathan Rupert

While working out

One of the greatest myths and most widely believed is that we need a bottle of water as our faithful sidekick while we are in the gym. However, when we exercise or engage in any activity that makes us sweat, drinking extra water during those activities actually burdens our bodies and only makes us sweat even more. It is almost impossible to get dehydrated in short bouts of exercise or even regular exercise regimens lasting about an hour. It is proven in a study that there was no performance difference between cyclists that were fully rehydrated and those that got nothing. Moreover, in our sweat sodium is lost, so only drinking water might over hydrate with the potential consequence of diluting our sodium levels, causing hyponatremia. The human body is made to tolerate losses in water relatively well whereas even slight over hydration can be far more dangerous.
Photo Credits: Marina del Castell

Photo Credits: Marina del Castell

When we are not thirsty

We do not have to drink more water than what thirst dictates. Studies on desert nomads showed people can consume minimal amounts of water in harsh environments. Soldiers in the military do not carry on them eight glasses of water when patrolling in hot climates. A good guide to tell if the body’s finely tuned fluid balance is to check the colour of your urine. It it is very dark, you need more water; if it is very light or translucent, you need to drink a bit less water.
Also, remember that almost all of the food you eat contains water: juices, vegetables, even a baked potato contains 75% water. To be honest, plain water is a poor substitute for health-promoting drinks such as freshly pressed organic fruit juices. Fruit juices promote easy digestion of food, they also give the body a lift by replacing lost mineral ions. In fact, drinking too much water can cause digestion to suffer because of diluted bile salts, hydrochloric acid and other components of gastric acid needed to properly digest our food.

Were these claims about water shocking to you? Let me know in the comments section below! I moderate comments within 24 hours!

 

5 Sure-Fire Ways of De-Stressing

Just seeing the word ‘stress’ makes me stressed. We stress so much on ‘stress’ these days that it is impossible to leave it at the back of our heads and pretend it does not exist. As a working professional with two jobs, one after-work course and countless social activities, a boyfriend and church commitments, I am constantly looking ahead to the next thing to complete or the next hour to come instead of focusing on what is at hand.
To help our panicky generation out with relieving some of that anxiety and stress, I have compiled five sure-fire ways of de-stressing that I believe to be easily done and achieves effective results of relaxation:

 

Photo Credits: A&A Photography

Photo Credits: A&A Photography

1. KICKBOXING

Kicking, thumping, jumping in the air sounds like a sure-fire way to de-stress to me. If it were up to me, every office would have a kickboxing room for staff to hang out, get/stay in shape and work out the daily frustrations! For couples, an amazing way to have fun is to do couple boxing, and then resting with a good sushi combo, or movies on the couch. If you are into getting some serious skills for boxing, take private lessons, which is a great way to keep the discipline of getting your blood flowing and endorphins kicking in weekly.
Photo Credits: Paul Cox

Photo Credits: Paul Cox

2.DANCING

For me, dancing is a way to use my body to express itself. It gives me a chance to break free from whatever is ailing me, ventilate trapped emotions and ease out knotted nerves. Even though I am in no way a professional dancer, moving my body to the rhythm of upbeat music allows me to let go of the tension building inside my body and get in touch with my inner self somehow. What helps too is to sing along to songs you are familiar with, even though it may become an ear worm later on, but it is oh so fun!
Photo Credits: Loren Kerns

Photo Credits: Loren Kerns

3. GO HIKING

I love nature and I think that mountainous landscapes are one of God’s greatest masterpieces. When I have undergone an especially hectic week, I love to get away from it all going on a hiking trail with no plans. Just de-stressing completely, walking in the shade of trees, looking out onto a green world. I feel quite rejuvenated, detoxed from city stress and I even sleep better afterwards. I love bathing myself in gentle sunlight (which benefits us by producing vitamin D in our bodies), catching random squirrels scurrying by, focusing on the beautiful nature around me and stretching and relaxing those stagnant muscles from sitting in the office all week long.
Photo Credits: Hope

Photo Credits: Hope

4. JOURNALING

As a writer, I guess it is biased of me to say that writing helps me de-stress, but not all sorts of writing though. I like penning long journal entries in my favourite notebook, writing out what is worrying me, making lists of things I am concerned about or just writing a stream of consciousness. Sometimes, I write letters I will never send to someone or write fictional episodes to get my thoughts out of my head and on to paper. Sometimes I just need to process in words what has got me stressed out in life.
Photo Credits: Moyan Brenn

Photo Credits: Moyan Brenn

5. SLEEPING

Right, duh… Everybody knows we need to ‘get enough sleep’ to be focused and deal with affairs rationally every day. But is anyone getting those eight hours? I guess it does not take me to tell you that you will be more alert and cheerful with a good night’s sleep. One of the best ways to combat stress is to sleep it out. Even if you have an overwhelming and stressful life, you have to let it go every night as you fall asleep. Sleeping relaxes our muscles, soothes our tired minds and keeps us refreshed every morning. It helps us feel rejuvenated and calm, and even makes our skin look better and minimizes breakouts!
Got a plan to de-stress after work today? Try out some of the tips I have suggested here! Let me know if it worked for you in the comments below! I moderate the comments within 24 hours! 🙂