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Brown rice, anyone?

Over the past few years I have converted almost completely to whole grains in my own diet – convincing the rest of the family to do so has been only somewhat successful – they love their white rice, pasta, and bread! On some issues I’ve simply laid down the law – you will eat your sandwiches on whole wheat bread and your rice pilaf brown! – and stopped buying white. On others we eat separately: I will cook whole wheat pasta for myself when I cook white for them (I’m most sympathetic on this one, since it took me a long time to like whole wheat pasta). Our most recent compromise has been to alternate the kind of rice we cook to serve with Chinese food: one time we do a mix that includes brown rice, the next time we mix just white and sticky rice. It’s a gradual process of conversion which may never be complete!

It is indeed rare, although not unheard of, for Chinese restaurants to offer brown rice – I’m happy to see that it seems to be a growing phenomenon. And there’s more and more evidence that whole grains are better for you: apparently there are as many, if not more, phytochemicals in whole grains as in fruits and veggies – they just happen to appear in a bound form. A brief article on this appears on SparkPeople. More on the scientist researching this: Ruihai Liu Research Laboratory.

Wherever you are on your journey to eat more healthfully, this is food for thought.

List of Links

We’re moving into week #2 of the piglet flu at our house, so I feel the need to start off with some fun:

For all you punsters and word wizards out there, a fun piece by John Hershey on RakishWit: “What the garden gives us.”

And who can resist the gang at Sesame Street? First Lady Michelle Obama recently visited with her message on childhood health and the importance of eating vegetables.

On a more serious note (but in keeping with the First Lady’s message), a good post on dailySpark by guest blogger and registered dietitian Suzanne Dixon: “Can You Be Both Overweight and Malnourished?”

Friday List of Links

Hurrah for the newest farmers’ market in DC, welcomed by Michelle Obama: “Instead of Traffic, Fresh Tomatoes.” (Also includes a video link.)

Slow Food USA posted about the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative. launched a new interactive online guide, “Eat Healthy.”

But on a sobering note, a truly horrifying story about water pollution near large-scale dairy farms: “Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells.” Still not disgusted enough? Be sure to watch the slideshow and video links in the article – do those cows look healthy and happy? Do I want them producing the milk I feed my family? I don’t think so….

Health care: conventional medicine, or chiropractic?

Since college, I have been a firm believer in chiropractic: it treats the root of many symptoms, unlike conventional medicine, which often throws medication at symptoms without healing the cause of them. So I was deeply impressed by Michael Pollan’s op-ed piece, “Big Food vs. Big Insurance” in the New York Times in response to Obama’s speech on health care:

One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry.

The market for prescription drugs and medical devices to manage Type 2 diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates will afflict one in three Americans born after 2000, is one of the brighter spots in the American economy. As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. (emphasis mine) There’s more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise.

As for the insurers, you would think preventing chronic diseases would be good business, but, at least under the current rules, it’s much better business simply to keep patients at risk for chronic disease out of your pool of customers, whether through lifetime caps on coverage or rules against pre-existing conditions or by figuring out ways to toss patients overboard when they become ill.

His conclusion – repair the food industry, and repairing health care will follow:

…passing a health care reform bill, no matter how ambitious, is only the first step in solving our health care crisis. To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health — which means going to work on the American way of eating.

But even if we get a health care bill that does little more than require insurers to cover everyone on the same basis, it could put us on that course.

For it will force the industry, and the government, to take a good hard look at the elephant in the room and galvanize a movement to slim it down.

Why can’t we treat the health care issue as a chiropractor would, removing the cause of the symptoms, rather than throwing good money at the symptoms, which won’t go away until the cause is treated?

White House Garden watch

Michelle Obama continues to excite discussion with the “what next” side of the White House garden: “The Next Course.” I’m happy to see that although her team is clearly well aware of the issues (local, organic, sustainable, etc.) they have intentionally chosen to keep it on the vague side – indeed, when there are many inner city neighborhoods in America that have no viable source for fresh produce, it seems a bit odd to champion such concepts. Let’s work to get fresh produce into schools and homes and making our food supply safe before we start asking people to consider the next step! I’m a firm supporter of buying local, organic, and sustainably raised products, but I’d rather see conventionally farmed food made available to all our children in place of the “food products” that so many seem to exist on.

Fast Food Nation: In conclusion…

I’ve been juggling several books and have just now finished Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, which I blogged about a while back. I couldn’t resist sharing two powerful quotes found toward the end of the book – something to keep in mind if you tend to hit the fast food joints on the weekend as an “easy out” to making something at home!

First, about the power of the consumer in our fast-food world (and think about how the second paragraph applies to each and every fast food chain you know!):

Nobody in the United States is forced to buy fast food. The first step toward meaningful change is by far the easiest: stop buying it. The executives who run the fas food industry are not the bad men. They are businessmen. They will sell free-range-organic, grass-fed hamburgers if you demand it. They will sell whatever sells at a profit. The usefulness of the market, its effectiveness as a tool, cuts both ways. The real power of the American consumer has not yet been unleashed. The heads of Burger King, KFC, and McDonald’s should feel daunted; they’re outnumbered. There are three of them and almost three hundred million of you. A good boycott, a refusal to buy, can speak much louder than words. Sometimes the most irresistible force is the most mundane.

Pull open the glass door, feel the rush of cool air, walk inside, get in line, and look around you, look at the kids working in the kitchen, at the customers in their seats, at the ads for the latest toys,study the backlit color photographs above the counter, think about where the food came from, about how and where it was made, about what is set in motion by every single fast food purchase, the ripple effect near and far, think about it. Then place your order. Or turn and walk out the door. It’s not too late. Even in this fast food nation, you can still have it your way.

And second, about how fast food will be remembered (sic transit gloria McMundi?) along with a hopeful prescription for the future:

Future historians, I hope, will consider the American fast food industry a relic of the twentieth century – a set of attitudes, systems and beliefs that emerged from postwar southern California, that embodied its limitless faith in technology, that quickly spread across the globe, flourished briefly, and then receded, once its true costs became clear and its thinking became obsolete…. Whatever replaces the fast food industry should be regional, diverse, authentic, unpredictable, sustainable, profitable – and humble. It should know its limits. People can be fed without being fattened or deceived. This new century may bring an impatience with conformity, a refusal to be kept in the dark, less greed, more compassion, less speed, more common sense, a sense of humor about brand essences and loyalties, a view of food as more than just fuel. Things don’t have to be the way they are.