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Try This Guilt-Free, Antioxidant-Rich Apple Crumble Recipe Today


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

Recipe by Dr. Mercola

 

Apple crumble is usually served during festive occasions, but its origin is far from cheerful, as the dish became popular in the U.K. during World War I when people made the most out of the strict rationing of various foods. Flour, butter and sugar were substituted for pastry and mixed with different fruits such as apples, blackberries and/or rhubarb, paving the way for the crumble that people love today.[1]

 

This Health-Boosting Apple Crumble Recipe adds a healthy twist to this well-known dessert. Healthy spices and the mild sweetness of coconut oil create a flavorful fruity feast. Whether you have a spoonful or two of this apple crumble, you can be sure that there won’t be any drastic consequences to your health.

 

Ingredients:

 

For the filling

4 organic green apples, thinly sliced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp. of ground cinnamon

1 pinch of nutmeg

 

For the topping

1 1/2 cups almond meal or Dr. Mercola’s coconut flour

1/4 cup grass-fed butter or Dr. Mercola’s organic coconut oil, softened

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Pinch of Dr. Mercola’s Himalayan salt

Pinch of nutmeg

1 Tbsp. of grass-fed butter or coconut oil, to grease the pan

 

Procedure:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the ingredients for the topping until completely incorporated, and set aside.
  4. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×9-inch baking dish.
  5. Place the apples in the dish and cover evenly with the topping.
  6. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove cover and bake for an additional 25 minutes. The dish is done when the apples are soft and the topping browns.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 to 50 minutes

 

This Health-Boosting Apple Crumble Recipe Is a Delight for Everyone

 

Unlike apple pie, apple crumble requires less technical skill since there are no pie crusts or lattice details to think about. The dish is quite easy to make, and even your kids can help prepare this dessert, provided that parental guidance is present, of course. Moreover, apple crumble is versatile, since it can be used as a topping for grass-fed yogurt or parfaits, or eaten on its own as a dessert or healthy snack.

 

Apples Are Packed With Antioxidants That Are Great for Your Health

 

With the variety of colors, textures and flavors apples have to offer, it’s not a surprise that these fruits are the second most popular fruit in the U.S.[2] Apart from being delicious, crunchy and juicy, the health benefits that you can get from eating apples are timeless.

 

Apples are rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin A, which serves as a powerful antioxidant that assists in fighting infections and scavenging inflammatory free radicals. However, most of the fruit’s antioxidant content is found in the peel, so make sure to leave it on when eating apples or using it in your recipes.

 

Meanwhile, vitamin C in apples enhances immune system function and slows down aging, and B vitamins thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2) and pyridoxine (B6) work in tandem to release powerful enzymes that boost metabolism and other important bodily functions.

 

On the other hand, nutrients like iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, calcium and potassium were shown to contribute to apples’ abilities in controlling heart rate and blood pressure levels, while fiber was linked to helping prevent LDL or bad cholesterol absorption. Lastly, studies have shown apples’ potential in decreasing risk for conditions such as:[3],[4],[5],[6]

 

  • Neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease

 

Unfortunately, most commercially sold apples are contaminated with harmful pesticides. In fact, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2016 Dirty Dozen list ranked apples as the second most pesticide-contaminated fruit. In order to reap the health benefits of these fruits, make sure you purchase organic and GMO-free apples.

 

If you only have access to conventionally grown apples, briefly soak them first in a solution of 10 percent vinegar and 90 percent water to help eliminate some of the pesticides and bacteria.

 

Furthermore, apples are high in fructose, with a medium-sized apple containing a whopping 9.5 grams. Eating too many apples can lead your body’s fructose levels into overdrive, so always eat apples in moderation.

 

Why You Should Be a Fan of Coconut Flour

 

Coconut oil’s benefits have been emphasized time and time again, but it seems coconut flour will soon follow suit. This type of flour is made from fresh coconut meat after it’s pressed to create coconut milk and once most of the oil is extracted. This dried meat is then grated, with the finished product having a fine and powder-like texture.

 

Coconut flour can be used as a substitute to wheat- and grain-based flours in recipes, and delivers a mild and sweet coconut flavor and rich texture. I recommend using coconut flour for flour-based dishes since there is added nutrition you can get from it.

 

With 48 percent dietary fiber, coconut flour contains the highest percentage of dietary fiber out of the various flours available today. As such, it is very ideal for those suffering from insulin resistance or diabetes, since it won’t trigger spikes in blood sugar. Plus, coconut flour is also a good source of both protein and healthy fats, and is very low in carbohydrates (even lower than some vegetables).

 

When adding coconut flour into recipes, remember this general rule: You can replace up to 20 percent of the flour in the recipe with coconut flour, alongside an equal amount of liquid, without sacrificing the flavor or texture of the finished product.

 

If you’re completely substituting with coconut flour, keep in mind that you’ll need less coconut flour than grain-based flour. For example, if a recipe calls for a cup of grain-based flour, use one-quarter to one-third of coconut flour instead.

 

Mixing an organic, pastured egg per ounce of coconut flour is advisable too, since this takes the place of gluten and helps bind the mixture well. Raw honey, hemp powder, chia seeds or ground flax seeds (1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds in 3 tablespoons of water can be substituted for an egg) could also be used in case you don’t have eggs at home.

 

The high-fiber content causes the coconut flour to act like a sponge, and if you substitute the required flour in a recipe with 100 percent coconut flour, this can change the outcome of your dish.

 

Count on Cinnamon for a Flavor and Health Boost

 

What makes this apple crumble extra delicious is the blend of spices that enhances the fruit’s flavor, like cinnamon. This warm-hued spice is sold either in stick or powder form, and is popular because of its distinct fragrance and flavor. However, most people are unaware that this well-loved spice also yields positive effects on the body.

 

Minerals such as calcium, fiber and manganese are present in cinnamon, and this spice offers antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that all potentially play a role in:

 

Boosting antioxidant defenses

Enhancing cognitive function

Refining brain health

Assisting with weight loss

Helping treat sore throat and/or coughs

Preventing conditions like heart disease[7] and colon and liver cancers[8],[9]

Relieving ADHD symptoms[10],[11]

Helping diabetes patients by lowering blood sugar levels, improving insulin sensitivity and slowing down the stomach’s emptying time to decrease sharp blood sugar rises after a meal

 

 

 


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Sauna Therapy May Reduce Risk of Dementia and Boost Brain Health


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

When it comes to improving your health, some of the simplest strategies can have a tremendous impact.

Sweating in a sauna, for example, has many great health benefits, including expelling of toxins, improving blood circulation, killing disease-causing microbes and improving mitochondrial function.

Research has even shown that regular sauna use correlates with a reduced risk of death from any cause, including lethal cardiovascular events, and may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Sauna Bathing Promotes Brain Health

Most recently, researchers in Finland — a country where most homes come equipped with a sauna — found that men who used a sauna four to seven times a week for an average length of 15 minutes had a 66 percent lower risk of developing dementia, and 65 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s, compared to men who used the sauna only once a week.1

More than 2,300 middle-aged men were followed for more than two decades in this study, and the results held even after other healthy lifestyle factors were taken into account, such as exercise and socioeconomic factors.

How Sauna Use Helps Boost Brain Function

There are many reasons why sauna use may boost brain health, including lowering inflammation and blood pressure, improving vascular function and enhancing relaxation and well-being.2

Other research3 has shown sauna use increases levels of norepinephrine, a stress hormone that increases focus and attention, as well as prolactin, which may promote myelin growth, helping your brain to function faster and repair nerve cell damage.

Researchers have also found a link between heat exposure and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons. BDNF also triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health.

Exercising in heat increases BDNF to a greater degree than exercise done at lower temperatures, suggesting heat stress (i.e., sauna use) is beneficial for brain health.4

They found that exercising in heat increased the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, which is thought to stimulate cerebral output of BDNF. Heat stress also benefits your brain by:5

  • Preventing aggregation of proteins in your arteries and brain
  • Increasing production of dynorphin, which helps cool your body down. Although dynorphin has the opposite effect of endorphins, it sensitizes your brain to endorphins that your body produces
  • Increasing production of growth factors, which in turn promote the growth of brain neurons

Sauna Benefits Your Heart as Well

Previous findings by the same Finnish research team revealed that men who used the Finnish-style, dry heat sauna seven times per week also cut their risk of death from fatal heart problems in half, compared to those who used it only once a week. 6,7,8,9,10  

These findings remained stable even when confounding factors such as smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels were factored in. In regard to time, the greatest benefits were found among those who sweated it out for 19 minutes or more each session.

One mechanism for this effect is thought to be related to the fact that the heat places stress on your heart and body similar to that of exercise. Conversely, hyperthermic conditioning (i.e., acclimating yourself to heat independent of aerobic physical activity through sauna use) can also boost your exercise endurance.

It does this by inducing adaptations in your body that make it easier for you to perform when your body temperature is elevated. Stated another way; as your body is subjected to heat stress, it gradually becomes acclimated to the heat, prompting a number of beneficial changes and adaptations.

This includes increased blood flow to your heart and muscles (which increase athletic endurance) and increased muscle mass due to greater levels of heat-shock proteins and human growth hormone (HGH).

Compared to traditional saunas, athletes using infrared saunas also report greater recovery from strength and endurance training sessions.11

Heat, Sweat and Detoxification

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and your sweat glands are one way of cleansing your skin and releasing toxins that build up in your cells. Lack of sweating may actually result in an increased toxic load over time, which in turn can adversely affect your heart and brain.

Compared to other detoxification strategies, sauna bathing has a number of benefits, and may be one of the best, if not the best, strategy to lower your toxic load in a natural way.

As discussed in my interview with Dr. George Yu, the mobilization of stored toxins can be further enhanced by taking niacin in conjunction with sauna bathing.

While still often downplayed by modern medicine as a means of detoxification, studies have shown that sweating can help excrete heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury,12 for example, all of which can have very serious health effects. 

In one such study, sweat generally exceeded plasma or urine concentrations of toxins. According to the authors, sweating “deserves consideration for toxic element detoxification,” adding that:13

  • Sweat may be an important route for excretion of cadmium when an individual is exposed to high levels
  • Sweat-inducing sauna use might provide a therapeutic method to increase elimination of toxic trace metals
  • Sweating should be the initial and preferred treatment of patients with elevated mercury levels

Other Health Benefits of Sauna Therapy

Sauna use may also help your body excrete nonbiological halides, like bromine or fluoride that displace iodine. This is particularly important if you have thyroid issues.

A lack of sweating or an inability to sweat is often a sign of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Hypothyroidism may be exacerbated by halides found in baked goods, soft drinks, pesticides, fire retardants and other products.

These halides bind to the same receptors in your thyroid used to capture iodine, necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. This results in a low production of thyroid hormone and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

The more you can excrete the halides (and reduce your exposure), the more iodine your body can use to produce thyroid hormones.

Individuals suffering from fibromyalgia have also experienced great results from using saunas to reduce discomfort and pain. In one small study, 44 patients with fibromyalgia found a reduction in pain between 33 and 77 percent.

Six months after the study ended, the participants continued to report a reduction in pain between 28 and 68 percent.14

Sauna therapy has also demonstrated benefits for patients with asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).15 Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis report positive effects from infrared sauna therapy specifically. After four weeks and eight treatments, pain and stiffness were significantly reduced and improvements were seen in fatigue.16

Anecdotally, one of my senior staff writers reports successfully treating all sorts of aches and pains using a portable tent-style low-EMF infrared sauna, including headaches and general pains associated with menstruation, stiff knees, shoulder and back pain, and even migraines.

She started using it four times a week for 30 minutes per session at 150 degrees by recommendation from her doctor after being diagnosed with lead and aluminum toxicity, and was pleasantly surprised to notice its acute effects on various aches and pains as well.

Different Types of Saunas

There are several different types of saunas to choose from these days, including:17

  1. Finnish sauna, either wet or dry
  2. Far-infrared saunas
  3. Near-infrared saunas (emitters and lamps)

The difference between an infrared sauna and the traditional Finnish-style saunas (whether wet or dry) is that the Finnish-style sauna heats you up from the outside in, like an oven. The infrared sauna heats you from the inside out. Infrared saunas are particularly known for their ability to promote detoxification, and this is part of the reason for that.

By heating your tissues several inches deep, the infrared sauna can enhance your natural metabolic processes and blood circulation. It also helps oxygenate your tissues.

What’s the Difference Between Near- and Far-Infrared Saunas?

Near-infrared saunas have several additional benefits over the others, including far-infrared saunas. For starters, it penetrates your tissue more effectively than far-infrared because wavelengths under 900 nanometers (nm) in the near-infrared are not absorbed by water like the higher wavelengths in mid- and far-infrared, and thus can penetrate tissues more deeply.

When you look at the rainbow spectrum, the visible part of light ends in red. Infrared-A (near-infrared) is the beginning of the invisible light spectrum following red. This in turn is followed by infrared-B (mid-infrared) and infrared-C (far-infrared). While they cannot be seen, the mid- and far-infrared range can be felt as heat. This does not apply to near-infrared, however, which has a wavelength between 700 and 1,400 nm. As previously explained by Dr. Alexander Wunsch:

“Here you have only very low absorption by water molecules, and this is the reason why radiation has a very high transmittance. In other words, it penetrates very deeply into your tissue, so the energy distributes in a large tissue volume. This near-infrared A is not heating up the tissue so you will not feel directly any effect of heat.

This significantly changes when we increase the wavelength, let’s say, to 2,000 nm. Here we are in the infrared-B range and this already is felt as heat. And from 3,000 nm on to the longer wavelength, we have almost full absorption, mainly by the water molecule, and this is [felt as] heating.”

Near-Infrared Radiation Is Important for Optimal Health

The near-infrared range affects your health in a number of important ways,18 primarily through its interaction with chromophores in your body. Chromophores are molecules that absorb light, found in your mitochondria and in water molecules. To make sure the near-infrared rays can penetrate your skin, avoid wearing clothing when using a near-infrared sauna.

In your mitochondria, there’s a specific light-absorbing molecule called cytochrome c oxidase (cco), which is part of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and absorbs near-infrared light around 830 nm. Cco is involved in the energy production within the mitochondria. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — cellular energy — is the end product. ATP is the fuel your cells need for all of their varied functions, including ion transport, synthesizing and metabolism.

Most people don’t realize that light is an important and necessary fuel just like food.  When your bare skin is exposed to near-infrared light, cco will increase ATP production. It is also important to understand that near-infrared light is healing and repairing, and helps optimize many other biological functions. Its absence in artificial light sources like LEDs and fluorescents is what makes these light sources so dangerous to your health.

We now know that mitochondrial dysfunction is at the heart of most health problems and chronic diseases, including many signs of aging. For these reasons, I strongly recommend using a sauna that offers a full spectrum of infrared radiation, not just far-infrared. Regular exposure to near-infrared through the sun and/or sauna is a powerful strategy to improve your health.

Also beware of the fact that most infrared saunas emit dangerous non-native EMFs. So, look for one that emits low or no non-native EMFs. To learn more about this issue, please see my interview with Steve Benda, who has spent many years developing low-EMF saunas. After searching for a long time, I finally found a near perfect full-spectrum infrared sauna that I hope to have made to my customized specifications in a few months, so stay tuned for this exciting development.

Be Mindful of Mineral Depletion When Frequently Sweating

Dr. Lawrence Wilson has written an excellent book, “Sauna Therapy,” which is the best resource I have read to date on sauna use.19 As a nutritional consultant, Wilson recommends not spending more than 20 minutes in a near-infrared lamp sauna unless you’re also on a nutritional balancing program.

The reason for this is because the near-infrared can produce profound changes in your body chemistry. While most of these changes will be beneficial, if you have very unbalanced mineral ratios you could potentially worsen the problem.

My staff writer, whom I mentioned earlier, experienced this problem as well. After several weeks of regular sauna use, she developed symptoms suggestive of a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is one of the minerals that are more rapidly depleted when you sweat a lot.

The symptoms, which included a persistent “thick” headache and muscle spasms, began to dissipate within 15 minutes of taking an extra-large dose of magnesium, and disappeared completely after two days of upping her magnesium dosage.

Many other minerals can also be lost through sweating. To replace lost minerals, Wilson recommends taking kelp and using a high-quality natural (unprocessed) salt in your cooking. My preference is Himalayan salt in combination with magnesium as most of us are deficient in magnesium.

Wilson also provides instructions for how to build your own near-infrared sauna. If you currently have a far-infrared tent sauna, you could simply add one or two 10-watt infrared heat lamps as these types of bulbs emit near- and mid-infrared radiation. If you have a larger wooden sauna you could use a few 250-watt heat lamp bulbs. You could also add a small air purifier that produces negative ions that further enhances sauna benefits.

I have been taking an early morning 30-minute infrared sauna nearly daily for the last six months and enjoying swimming in my unheated pool afterwards, which at this time of the year is below 50 degrees, providing over a 120-degree contrast. But I feel great after I get out of the pool.

For men considering this regimen, I would caution them to protect their testes by holding an ice pack near their scrotum while they are in the sauna, as the testes weren’t designed for these types of high temperatures and there are some reports of impaired fertility in men who use sauna regularly.

Overall, regular sauna therapy, especially full-spectrum, near-, mid- and far-infrared low EMF sauna, can be a powerful adjunct to optimize your health through eliminating toxins and recharging your body with regenerating red and infrared wavelengths that energize your mitochondria and charge your water cellular battery.


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SNAP Decisions: Pushing for Changes in Food Assistance Program


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

About 23 million U.S. households receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, amounting to an average of $253 a month, which can be used to buy “any food or food product for home consumption.”1,2

This $74-billion federal food assistance program is intended to help alleviate hunger among those at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty line,3 but, as with many federal programs, there’s vast room for improvement.

While the program has succeeded in fighting hunger, it has largely failed in providing adequate, much less optimal, nutrition. As Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, put it, “The problem is it provides calories, not healthy food.”4

Soda Is the No. 1 Purchase Made by SNAP Households

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA), which oversees SNAP, published a detailed analysis of what typical households using the SNAP program purchase at the grocery store.

“Across all households [SNAP and non-SNAP], more money was spent on soft drinks than any other item,” the report revealed, which shows this isn’t an issue unique to SNAP households but rather applies to America as a whole.

Still, SNAP households spent slightly more on soda than non-SNAP households (5 percent versus 4 percent, respectively), and since SNAP money is federally funded, Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, described the program as basically “a multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry.”5

Many cities and states have called for restrictions on SNAP dollars to prevent the purchase of soda and other sugary beverages and junk food, but such moves have faced criticism over the notion of regulating people’s food choices.

It’s certainly a slippery slope to begin meddling in people’s right to choose what to eat, not to mention that other proclaimed “unhealthy foods,” like saturated fats, could end up facing restrictions too.

In a supplement published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group of researchers also called for changes to the SNAP program to encourage more nutritious food consumption.6

They proposed a “Healthy Staples” program that would restrict SNAP purchases to only four food groups — grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits — and vitamin supplements.

This program would provide 1,800 calories plus a daily multivitamin to a SNAP recipient for just over $121 a month, which is $73 less than the most comprehensive SNAP benefit package, Kaiser Health reported.7 This change alone would save $26 billion a year while providing better nutrition, the researchers concluded.

What you’ll notice is that meat is excluded in this program, evidence of the slippery slope I referenced earlier. While it’s easy to argue for the exclusion of soda, excluding animal protein could leave recipients at risk of nutritional deficiencies and, when sourced from high-quality grass-fed sources, a healthy dietary staple.

Meanwhile, promoting grain consumption, as the proposed Healthy Staples program does, is encouraging a high-carb diet that is the opposite of what’s healthy for most people.

20 Cents of Every SNAP Dollar Goes Toward Junk Food

Soda wasn’t the only unhealthy item found in many U.S. shopping carts. When the USDA broke down expenditure patterns among SNAP and non-SNAP households, there were only limited differences.

“Both household groups were equally likely to purchase salty (bag) snacks (about 3 percent of food purchases), cookies (about 1 percent), and ice cream, ice milk, and sherbet (about 1 percent),” the USDA reported.8

Overall, about 40 cents of every food purchase dollar was spent on “basic” items like meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and bread. Another 40 cents was spent on cereal, prepared foods, other dairy products, rice and beans.

The remaining 20 cents was spent on junk foods, including sweetened drinks, desserts, salty snacks, candy and sugar.

The similarities between SNAP and non-SNAP household food purchases is noteworthy because it shows that junk-food spending is higher than it should be for many Americans, regardless of income, if optimal nutrition is desired.

For this reason, some, such as Diane Schanzenbach, a senior fellow at research firm the Brookings Institution, have called SNAP food restrictions problematic. She told Kaiser Health News:9

“Limiting food options removes the recipients’ ability to purchase foods they prefer, and the conversation surrounding healthier options should be framed as a national issue rather than a problem affecting only low-income Americans.”

SNAP Recipients at Greater Risk of Premature Death

Another revealing study used data from nearly 500,000 U.S. adults who participated in the 2000-2009 National Health Interview Survey.

They compared all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among three groups of people: those who took part in SNAP, those who were eligible for SNAP but chose not to participate, and those who were ineligible for SNAP.

Compared to those who were ineligible for the program, SNAP participants were found to have a two-fold increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality along with a three-fold increased risk of dying from diabetes.10

Those who were eligible for the program, but did not participate, also faced higher premature death risks than those who were ineligible, including a 1.5 times higher risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality and a nearly two-fold higher risk of diabetes mortality.

The study cannot prove that SNAP participation is responsible for the worse health outcomes, but the findings remained after other contributing factors such as age, physical activity, smoking status and more were accounted for.

The researchers did suggest that employment status, educations levels and marital status may have influenced the mortality risks. It was clear, however, that those relying on SNAP “require greater focus to understand and further address their poor health outcomes. Public Health Implications,” the researchers concluded.11

They continued, “Low-income Americans require even greater efforts to improve their health than they currently receive, and such efforts should be a priority for public health policymakers.”12

In Latin America, Obesity Rates Rise Along With Ultra-Processed Food Consumption

A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) revealed that weight gain as a result of processed food consumption has replaced hunger as a top public health problem.

About 58 percent of people living in Latin America and the Caribbean are now overweight, the report found. Rates were highest in the Bahamas (69 percent), Mexico (64 percent) and Chile (63 percent).13

Another 23 percent of the region’s population is obese, leading FAO officials to say the data should act as a wake-up call to area governments. According to FAO:14

Economic growth, increased urbanization, higher average incomes and the integration of the region into international markets have reduced the consumption of traditional preparations and increased consumption of ultra-processed products, a problem that has had greater impact on areas and countries that are net food importers.

To address this situation, FAO and PAHO call for the promotion of healthy and sustainable food systems that link agriculture, food, nutrition and health. To this end, countries should promote the sustainable production of fresh, safe and nutritious foods, ensuring their supply, diversity and access, especially for the most vulnerable sectors.”

Depending on the amount of adulteration the food goes through, processing may be considered minimal or significant. “Ultra-processed” foods are at the far end of the significantly altered spectrum.

Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces, and much more. More than half of the U.S. diet is also made up of ultra-processed foods.15

Crop Insurance, Farm Program Payments Perpetuate a Cheap, Processed-Food Diet

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa recently made statements to the press in favor of preserving crop insurance programs over other farm program payments. Farmers have the option of purchasing federally supported crop insurance as a risk-management tool, which pays out if crops are lost due to a variety of causes.16

There is much waste in the system, which pays out large payments to rich farmers while ignoring small farmers in need. In April 2015, Grassley introduced the Farm Payment Loophole Elimination Act, which states that recipients of farm subsidies be actively engaged in farming. Outrageously, the Agricultural Act of 2014 currently allows farmers not actively engaged in farming to receive farm subsidies.

Another example of farm program payments is the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program, which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Under the PLC program, the USDA must issue payments to farmers if the average market prices for certain commodities dip below a reference price.

The crops subsidized under this program are one in the same with those used to create a junk-food diet, namely genetically engineered corn and soy. According to Western Farm Press:17

“Grassley and other advocates claim the crop insurance-oriented program saves money but recent figures show USDA has been paying about $6 billion a year for indemnity payments compared to about $5 billion for the direct payments under the 2008 farm bill.”

That’s billions of dollars being paid to continue growing the junk-food diet that, in turn, lawmakers want to restrict people on SNAP programs from using federal funds to purchase. Further, eating a healthier diet (defined as rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts in one study) was found to be significantly more expensive than an unhealthy diet (rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains).18

Part of what makes the processed-food diet cheaper is the fact that the U.S. government is actively subsidizing a diet that consists of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soybean oil, corn oil and grain-fed cattle, a direct result of their flawed farm subsidy system. It’s an upside-down reality, one that could be solved with a return to healthy, diversified food systems.

It’s worth noting that the SNAP program does allow purchases at some farmers markets and can also be used for food-producing plants and seeds, which allows participants to grow their own produce — one of the best choices economically and for your health. Bone broth, fermented vegetables and sprouts (grown at home) are examples of additional foods that are inexpensive and phenomenal for your health, and you can find more tips for eating healthy on a tight budget here.

Unfortunately, many inner-city areas are void of healthy food sources — people are literally buying their food at gas stations and the like, as there are no grocery stores in the neighborhood. So, investing in regional and local food systems is imperative if we are to change this situation for the better.


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