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Healthy Life
Too Much Estrogen! PDF Print Write e-mail
Healthy Life
Written by Yisbel Marin   
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 02:10
toomuchestrogen

Our society is suffering from estrogen overload. No, I’m not referring to Sex and The City reruns—estrogen overload refers to the increasing amount of estrogen in our environment, our food and our bodies.

“Good” Estrogen

Estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, is responsible for normal body processes in women such as secondary female sex characteristics, menstruation, fertility, protein synthesis, bone density, metabolism and much more. Actually, there are three kinds of estrogens in the body: estroneestradiol, and estriol, which all have specialized roles to play at different points in a woman’s life.

Although estrogen levels are greater in women, estrogen is also needed for libido and maturation of sperm in men.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 January 2011 19:02
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Dangers of food additives: Read the fine print! PDF Print Write e-mail
Healthy Life
Written by Fristine de Guia   
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 00:00

The evolution of convenience shopping over the last four decades shaped global consumer trends, especially in food. Locally, the formerly prevalent palengke (wet market) is now dominated by supermarkets offering the convenient push-reach-grab-and-throw-in-cart advantage.

Most of the younger generations have more memories of riding supermarket carts and grabbing bags of potato chips than memories of walking to the wet market with lola (grandmother) in her bakya (wooden clogs), carrying a bayong (woven market bag) full of fresh palengke goodies.

A striking difference between the palengke and supermarket is as apparent as the midday sun. The former demands nothing but the freshest and the latter demands anything that will last as long as sugar. Wet markets’ perishables operate on a rule of one-day disposal without much focus on aesthetics - everything has to be sold at the end of the day.

On the other hand, supermarkets are perennially in praise of visually-enticing food that hardly spoils, so they hope. In pursuit of maximizing sales revenue, food companies apply chemical additives to food to prolong natural shelf life, look appealing to consumers, and last as long as stocks run out.

Food preservatives range from something as natural as sodium chloride (salt) to something as synthetic as olestra. Food coloring can be natural, as that expressed from achuete (annatto), or artificial as Red 3 (erythrosine), innocently named after primary or secondary colors attached with a number.

Though little was known about the dangers of food additives back when they were first introduced, recent studies show that the use of these food additives have consequences, especially when taken in high levels. These additives can be harmful to the human body. They look unassuming in packages and do not necessarily have complicated-sounding names. But they are prevalent. You just have to look
closer and read the "fine print."

Armed with a little knowledge, you can cruise the aisles of your local neighborhood supermarket and choose safer food for you and your family. Here are some of the more prevalent food additives in the market today.

HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL or TRANS FAT

Vegetable oil in its natural state is a liquid and highly perishable. To retard spoilage, it is combined with nitrogen to turn it to a semi-solid (partial hydrogenation) or solid shortening. This process creates trans fats which promote heart disease. Meat and dairy products have minute amounts of trans fats but most trans fats that are consumed by humans are from artificial sources.

Evidence point out that trans fat, amongst all fats, is the most dangerous because it increases bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL), interferes with blood circulation, and increases post-menopausal women’s risk of clot-caused strokes. To top it off, it does not have ANY known nutritional value.

FOODS TO AVOID: Restaurant or fastfood deep-fried foods such as French fries, doughnuts, cookies, cake icing, food with margarine, microwave popcorn, cake, pancake and hot chocolate mixes, pre-packaged crackers and cookies

SODIUM NITRATE or SODIUM NITRITE

Most commercially processed meat contains sodium nitrite, as it gives the staying power of the red coloring in cured meat. Without it, bacon and hotdogs will look ashen gray, the unappetizing color of the dead.

The addition of nitrites in food forms small amounts of cancer-causing agents when cooked. This is especially true in fried bacon. Studies show a link between consumption of processed meat by children, pregnant women and old people to various kinds of cancer.

FOODS TO AVOID: Bacon, corned beef, ham, luncheon meat, sausages, hotdogs

ASPARTAME and SACCHARIN

Aspartame is the most thoroughly studied artificial sweetener in existence. It is more commonly known as Equal or NutraSweet to the regular consumer and is 180 times sweeter than plain table sugar. There are plenty of studies conducted since the 1970s testing the safety of aspartame. Several tests suggested it caused brain tumors, breast cancer, leukemia and lymphoma in rats. However, aspartame is FDA-approved and the U.S. government funded a study which concluded that consumption of beverages with aspartame does not increase the risk of developing brain tumors.

After 20 years, the FDA declared aspartame as safe for consumption despite receiving the most number of reports of adverse reactions to aspartame than all food additives combined. Some of the frequently reported reactions are migraines, headaches, sleep problems, memory loss, and hallucinations. This further fuelled the controversy surrounding this artificial sweetener.

Saccharin is the oldest artificial sweetener in existence and is better known as Sweet n’ Low. It is 200-700 times sweeter than sugar. Succeeding animal tests reveal that saccharin increased incidences of bladder cancer in rats. The National Cancer Institute of America released this study and declared there is no consistent evidence of bladder cancer incidence in humans as the development of the cancer is directly related to how rats’ body mechanism react to saccharin. However, the U.S. congress mandated that all food with saccharin bear the following warning label: "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.”

Extended and long term consumption of aspartame and saccharine may increase the risk of cancer. Diabetics, kids and pregnant women should avoid all types of artificial sweeteners and switch to a safer alternative. One of the best natural alternatives available is coconut sugar, which has a low Glycemic Index (GI) of 35.

FOODS TO AVOID: Diet sodas, sugar-free gum and candy, low-calorie or diet foods

POTASSIUM BROMATE

This additive is mostly used as a dough improver. It increases the yield of breads and it does a great job of creating fine crumbs, which is sought after by bread lovers. However, bromate is proven to cause cancer in animals and may pose a cancer risk to humans. It has been banned in the Philippines since August 30, 1994. Consumers must take caution and ensure their breads are certified and produced with
bromate-free flour and improvers.

FOODS TO AVOID: Breads and baked goods from nondescript bakeries and the United States

(Bromate is legal in the US)

RED 3 or ERYTHROSINE

This artificial food coloring is used to give maraschino cherries its signature color. This deeply intense red dye caused thyroid tumors in rats and is suggested to cause tumors in humans as well.

FOODS TO AVOID: Fruit cocktail (cherries), cake gel icing, candy (red hard candies and fruit rollups), baked goods (red velvet cake)

This is a very short excerpt of a very long list of food additives used all over the world. No matter how vigilant we are, there is always the likelihood that some unscrupulous food manufacturers may add dangerous chemicals that are derogatory to our health.

As a general rule, we should veer away from food with stuff that do not occur in nature and, instead, focus on consuming lots of fresh, unprocessed, and organic food.


And remember to read the fine print.

Photos: “Diet Coke Can” by Joe Anderson, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved / "Hydrogenated Vegetable Fats" by Chats Siao. Some Rights Reserved / All other photos by Fristine de Guia. Some Rights Reserved.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 November 2010 11:13
 
Updating your cosmetics bag: natural products made by yourself PDF Print Write e-mail
beauty
Written by Maria Lasprilla   
Monday, 22 November 2010 08:57
 A couple of years have passed since I started changing gradually several things in my daily life in order to make it healthier for myself and the environment. On one hand, I've managed to reach these goals, and on the other, I've also benefited my mental and emotional health as I have learned and enjoyed while making small experiments at home to reach my objectives.

Homemade cosmetics

The changes I've made in my life have mainly affected my way of eating and buying stuff. It's part of my routine now to buy fruits and vegetables without needing to put them in individual plastic bags. It's also natural that the first thing that comes to my mind when I order pizza to take-away is asking myself if I am carrying a container with me or not so I can avoid taking the polyethylene one in which they usually come. I try to calculate the things I'll eat during the day so I can make sure I consume the proteins my body needs, and which I once used to obtain from meat, fish and chicken -things I have not eaten in almost three years. In my shopping cart there's always room for soy meat and soy milk, for beans and of course, for nice spices that can help me cook a dish that even the heaviest of meat-eaters would love to try. Of course there's always something hard to quit, and in my case it has been cheese and I don't think I ever will. I believe it's enough with making changes in our lives that can diminish up to some extent the harm we cause to our bodies and the environment, but pretending to change everything in our way of living would mean moving to another society or living as an alien in our own, most probably resulting in a negative effect on our emotional and/or mental health. I cannot go that far and I think most people can't.

So, with one change here and another there, little by little I've managed to live in a healthier way, and also have fun. And now I have reached a new stage. Having satisfied basic needs (eating habits), I think it's time for some banality: it's cosmetics time. Being a woman, although I've never been the typical Miss Venezuela, a model with which I am sure my foreign friends and colleagues would try to associate me with, I do have the same needs than any average woman from our societies: I like to have a moisturized skin, a healthy and shiny hair, soft lips and I like to smell, if not as good as to captivate all men on Planet Earth, at least enough to mellow my hubby. So it's now time for me to share with you the changes I've made in my toilet bag to let banality run free but smart:

 Natural ingredients for body lotion

  • Shampoo: a bit more than a year ago I told you about my adventures trying to find a shampoo free of plastic container. Finally I found one that was “naked”, it is a shampoo in bar. Although it is not the perfect solution, as it contains ingredients that can be harmful to our bodies, at least I get to get rid of the plastic. Since I told you my story I've been using that shampoo brand: I buy a couple of bars and I forget about shopping again for three months or longer. Plus, the price has been very good, as one bar lasts for really long. The health issue is still there, so I guess I can make things better.

  • Deodorant: this was one of the first things, if not the first, I changed in my toilet bag. Using soda with a bit of water and never right after shaving, can be the best deodorant on Earth. Even if you have to run a marathon you'll feel safer than with any of the most commonly used commercial deodorants. It does not have chemicals and it's quite cheap, lasting for months. And you'll be surprise with all the other uses you can give to soda in your daily life. One of the best choices I've ever made.

  • Skin moisturizer: just as with most of cosmetics, body lotions and moisturizers, creams and shower gels, usually come in plastic bags and contain a great number of harmful chemicals that you cannot even pronounce. So, trying once again to reduce the amount of plastic I consume and avoiding putting poison on my skin, I ended up becoming a close friend of olive oil. I do use it as salad dressing and for pasta, but the truth is that it spends more time on my bathroom cabinet than in the kitchen. Applying olive oil after the shower and before going to bed will guarantee you a soft skin. Of course I have wanted to improve this one, because I have to admit that at first it can be really uncomfortable to apply pure oil on your skin. So I've started looking for recipes to get something that helps with the dryness but also smells good. My first trial consisted of olive oil mixed with honey, vanilla butter and/or infusion (these last two help give it a nice smell and the honey helps it thicken). It does a great job as a shower gel, although I made it originally as a body lotion, so I still need to work on this.

  • Lip balm: this is my latest experiment. In this mild winter land I have suffered from bleeding chapped lips, so I think this changed has been more a need than a banality. I made the lip balm trying to follow this recipe, but as you can see it contains too many ingredients and I prefer to simplify things and that's just what I did: I mixed beeswax with olive oil, honey and vanilla butter. The result was a nice lip balm that last for long, protects my lips, tastes good and it's not poisonous! The recipe sounds a lot like the body lotion, but as you might have already noticed, this one contains beeswax that helps better with the thickening (although using too much of it may result in a hard thing that you won't be able to apply). In the original recipe you can see the girl uses a natural fragrance oil, and you can change that to give the smell you want to your lip balm. I used the vanilla butter for that.

 Homemade lipbalm

So with this update the last thing I have to do is invite you to try and change some of the things in your cosmetic bag yourself. I can assure you that apart from the great benefits to your health and the protection of the environment, you'll also learn a lot and, with perhaps a couple of frustrating moments, you'll also have fun.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 November 2010 09:08
 
Choosing the right dairy PDF Print Write e-mail
Healthy Life
Written by PET   
Tuesday, 28 September 2010 00:00

If you have ever been curious about how the cheese and yogurt you usually eat are made, we are coming to bring you some of the insights of the process.

The Ideals Matter team and part of the community and family members had the opportunity to visit during this summer Esko Talu: a small farm in Estonia specialized in producing milk derivatives. The farm is located only 3 Km away from Saku, that's 30 minutes from the Estonian capital. The tour was guided by Vello Eensalu, who has been running the place for some years already, and who explained us the general aspects of their work, which we bring to you now...

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 October 2010 11:53
 
The toy story gone ugly PDF Print Write e-mail
Healthy Life
Written by Ave K. Lend   
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 00:00

The thing about toys is that they don't come with the list of ingredient. One can go to the grocery store and look at food or cosmetics or many other products and find out what's in them. With toys, there is no way of knowing that. 

The incident in 2007, when global toy manufacturer Mattel recalled over a million of popular children’s toys sold under its Fisher-Price brand, as they were found to contain dangerous levels of toxic elements, has got people thinking more and more about the dangers we voluntarily (though unknowingly) put our children in. I mean, baby toys, shouldn’t this word itself imply to something pure and safe? Apparently not. 
Last Updated on Sunday, 31 October 2010 18:59
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