7 things you won’t find in my kitchen anymore

Packaged fruit juices

Yes, I am talking about 100% natural fruit juices with no sugar added. They are nothing but empty calories. They are deprived of most vitamins since they have been pasteurized to stop from spoiling quickly.

Making your own juices and smoothies is fun and so much healthier. Once you have a blender, all you need is fruit and water or plant-based milks. If you have a little more time, get a juicer and juice your own oranges, apples, carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, etc. They will give you a boost of energy and nutrition right away.

Animal milk

Milk is what comes from the mammary glands of female mammals after they have a baby and is intended for their babies only. Humans are the only species who drink the milk of another one. Modern cow milk, including raw and organic milk is full of estrogens, pus and growth hormones not intended for humans. Recent, important studies find many problems with dairy consumption. If you are worried about keeping your bones strong, remember that the best way to have strong bones is by exercising your body on a regular basis. Take a look at my post about dairy here.

Replacing animal milk in our household was easy. We have so many alternatives these days: almond, soy, coconut, hemp, rice, cashew and so much more. Try experimenting, and if you have the time, make your own milk; it’s worth it.

Gluten free baked goods

Gluten is bad for you only if you have celiac disease. New studies have shown that the so-called gluten sensitivity is mostly in people’s heads. It is true that our modern wheat is different than the first wheat people initially cultivated, but that’s true for almost every single crop we consume now. Artificial selection has always been a part of agriculture.

If you aren’t diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, know that gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy—and gluten-free baked goods like bread, cookies, and crackers often are packed with more refined flours, artificial ingredients, and sugar than traditional baked goods. Plus, they can cost up to twice as much as you’d normally spend.

Red meats

About 10 years or so ago I stopped eating red meat (beef, pork, lamb) mostly for ethical reasons. I wanted to become a vegetarian but was not ready to quit poultry and fish. After a few years of not eating them, I was not happy preparing them at home either and so I stopped feeding them to my family.

To replace red meat, I have incorporated more vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and plant-based foods. My dishes are more colorful, delicious, and healthy now and even my son has started cooking with the different vegan cookbooks I have purchased.

There are also health reasons to skip red meats from your diet. For red meat, there was evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. Take a look for yourself at this important announcement from the American Cancer Society here.

Processed meats

We are so accustomed to eating processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, ham, deli meats, sausages and others that we tend to forget they have to go through a lot of processing.

Processed meats are typically made from red meats high in saturated fats, and they contain high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs): inflammatory compounds that are created when these processed meats are dried, smoked, and cooked at high temperatures. Not to mention, those nitrates and nitrites in cured (and natural, “uncured”) meats can turn into carcinogenic nitrosamines when exposed to high heat.

In a 2015 study from the World Health Organization, twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. That’s the equivalent of about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog. The study is found here.

Microwave popcorn

The smell that first hits you when you open a bag of popcorn is actually a chemical called diacetyl, a synthetic butter flavoring added to the product. People who work in the factories developed a problem called “popcorn lung” from inhaling the gases with the diacetyl in it. Most manufacturers have removed diaceytl from their products, but it’s been replaced with other kinds of butter flavoring that some government scientists say are just as bad as the original stuff.

Another problem is perfluorooctanoic (PFOA), a chemical that lines the bag, also used to make Teflon. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFOA as a “likely carcinogen.”

The alternative is easy and trash-free: simply place 1/3 cup popcorn kernels in a large pan on your stove top on medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil, cover the pan, and wait. Once the popping starts slowing down, remove the pan from the heat. Transfer to a bowl, add salt, and enjoy healthy popcorn!

Bagged greens

Washed and bagged greens can be a time-saver, but they can cost twice as much as buying the same amount of single leafy greens and they are never as fresh as their counterparts. Buying a head of fresh lettuce and a bunch of spinach will also make a delicious salad; you will save money and eat fresher. You will also avoid creating unnecessary trash. Try making your own salad dressing too.

Eat Less Dairy for Your Health

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the dairy equivalent of three glasses of milk a day. Why? Because milk builds strong bones and combats osteoporosis. At least that’s what the government tells you.

Much of that promotion comes from the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. But several of the “experts” who designed the pyramid are dairy industry insiders. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, family medicine practitioner and Director the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, USDA dietary recommendations primarily protect industry interests… not your health.  Unfortunately, the government’s food policy is influenced by the dairy industry lobbying, not by the scientific proof detailing the health risks associated with consuming milk.

In a 2013 editorial by two of the nation’s leading nutrition scientists from Harvard Medical School, Dr. David Ludwig PhD and Dr. Walter Willett, in JAMA Pediatrics, our old assumptions about milk are being called into question. Perhaps milk doesn’t help you grow strong bones, and it may increase the risk of cancer and promote weight gain. Their studies conclude that humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk.

Dr. Davaasambuu, a physician, scientist, and research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health is concerned that the high levels of estrogens (female sex hormones) found in commercially produced milk may be harmful to human health. Estrogens have been implicated in the development of hormone-dependent cancers: those affecting the prostate, testes, ovaries, breasts, and uterus.

Worldwide, ovarian cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer and the seventh most common cause of cancer death among women. Dairy consumption has been associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer in both the 2004 Harvard Nurses’ Health Study and the study from Stockholm, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute from the same year.

Also, a diet high in dairy has been implicated as a risk factor for prostate cancer. In 2015, the Physicians’ Health Study found that men who consumed 3 or more servings of dairy per day had a 141% higher risk of prostate cancer-specific mortality compared to men who consumed less than 1 dairy product/day.

The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, also showed no protective effect of increased dairy consumption on fracture risk. According to Harvard Notes, exercise, especially weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercise and getting adequate vitamin D, whether through diet, exposure to sunshine, or supplements have been proven to be the most effective ways to increase bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis. In fact, research shows that the countries whose citizens consume the most dairy products, have the highest incidence of osteoporosis.

When most people in the United States think of calcium, they immediately think of milk. But should this be so? Dairy is actually only one of many sources of calcium—dark leafy green vegetables and some types of legumes are among the other sources—and there are some important reasons why milk may not be the best source for everyone.

Is organic milk better? Dairy cows raised for organic milk production do not receive antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. Plus, organic dairy cows must be raised on 100% certified organic feed and at least 30% of their diet must come from pasture grass, but organic milk still may be full of natural hormones (estrogens). Dr. Willett is not saying that people should give up dairy. He doesn’t drink cow’s milk, per se, though but he does enjoy some cheese and yogurt in moderation.

Why Eat Less Meat

Veggie Burger
Veggie burger

There’s a lot of confusion regarding the topic of nutrition, but one fact is quite clear: Reducing your meat intake, especially red meat, can have positive outcomes for your health, the environment, and the welfare of many animals that suffer immensely in our food production system.

The research about the benefits of plant eating vs. animal eating for our health is abundant. One of the most comprehensive studies of health and nutrition ever conducted was published in the book “The China Study” based on a 20-year study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, and his son, Thomas M. Campbell, MD. This study examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products and chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer.

A study published in 2015 conducted by an international panel of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the World Health Organization concluded that processed meats, like hot dogs, ham and sausage, cause colon cancer and that consuming other red meats “probably” raises the risk as well. Another 2012 study by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality. The medical literature is abundant on this topic.

In addition to health problems, eating meat also has environmental consequences. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of global greenhouse emissions and deforestation. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAO estimates that livestock production is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the WorldWatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51%.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “Meat production is one of humanity’s most destructive and least efficient systems, accounting for astounding levels of wildlife losses, land and water pollution, deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Is grass-fed beef better? A cow that eats grass, at least partially, is healthier but the truth is that beef is not planet-friendly. Cattle produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and beef routinely tops the charts of foods you should eat less of to curb climate change. Grass-fed beef produce more climate-warming methane per cow than conventionally raised beef, says John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America. Their grazing land may still be irrigated, which uses up water, and fertilized, which contributes to pollution.

Cow about to be stunned
Cow about to be stunned

Is there such thing as humane slaughter? There have been better regulations in the past requiring animals to be stunned prior to being killed. Unfortunately, evidence from slaughterhouses around the country shows that, due to increased production speeds and industry deregulation, slaughter animals are routinely dragged, skinned, dismembered, and scalded while alive and fully conscious. This applies to conventional, organic and grass-fed animals.

By choosing to eat more plant-based meals and reduce your animal intake, especially cutting on red meat,  you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than livestock.