Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In the Mood of the Season

This picture was taken in the Yummy House – a small Asian place at 1725 Haggerty Rd, Commerce Township, MI 48390. It came as a little pleasant surprise to us and our friends.

The food tasted as good as it looks, if not better. The nicest thing about it was freshness of everything we tried and a really light feeling in our stomachs after the meal. Please notice that their pickled ginger (bottom right) is not dyed artificial red as it is done practically everywhere else. And of course, presentation! It seems that being recently open their owners make a real effort to offer good-quality Asian food for a moderate price. We just hope they stay this way in spite of all the challenges of the business. They are really small: 3 booths, one larger table and a bar.

And here is another picture taken recently by our friend Marina Holkin http://www.facebook.com/yacht.delma#. I think it is very much in the mood of the season.
Organic Apple Cider to celebrate the season

Monday, October 1, 2012

Almost Raw Pumpkin

Currently we have 2 old friends all the way from Russia visiting with us. It just happened that they are also into vegetarian and organic food. So here is the pumpkin recipe that we half-checked on the Internet and half-improvised.

We bought 4 small pie pumpkins, because they are the cutest of them all. We cut them around the stem to make lids and scraped out all the seeds from inside to make 4 little edible pots. We actually scraped some more flesh from inside to make the walls thinner. Whatever pumpkin flesh we got, was cut in smaller pieces and started our stuffing.

I think that stuffing can be made of all sorts of things (vegetables, grain, even meat). Ours included cabbage thinly sliced (arpx. 1/4 of a small head), 1 sweet pepper, 3 celery stalks, 1 large yellow onion, a cup of frozen corn, 2-3 table spoons of olive oil, 4-5 generous drops of apple cider vinegar, allspice, salt, pepper and whatever other spice you like. Our choice was a Mediterranean mix that included cumin. Oh, and we put some fennel seeds as well.

We then stirred the stuffing with our bare hands (a habit that I quite forgot lately) and then stuffed our orange jolly pots by pressing the stuffing in as hard as we could. A little-bit of stuffing that was left we just ate as it was. This gives me the right to say that it can be eaten raw. It seems that all the range of cooking fits this recipe and depends entirely on your taste and convictions.

We baked our pumpkins with lids on at 450 F (just keep in mind that my stove is old and might not heat too well). It was ready in 45 min, or we just were too curious to let it stay in the oven for more.
This is the result

It tasted great - hot, though stuffing was still crunchy. I tried it with goat yogurt and chopped dill, my friends preferred sour cream instead. I think preparation time is about 30 min. If you like to make a use of the seeds, you will need additional time to rinse them and spread on a paper towel to dry.
From our husbands we've received rave reviews.
And I wish all my friends to have a wonderful season!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Synthetic Vs. Real

In the Experience Life magazine I leisurely browsed through a discussion on advantages of vegan and paleo diets (Paleo Vs. Vegan). Frankly, both diets seem a bit extreme to me. When you live long enough you eventually see many fads disappoint and their enthusiasts impacted in regretful way. 
However one remark caught my attention. It was by Mark Hyman, MD, a family physician, the author of four New York Times bestsellers, and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine,
‘I think the Paleo argument of no grains is interesting and has some merit. If you go with traditional grains, such as buckwheat, quinoa and millet, which have been around for 10,000 years, you’re better off. But gluten-containing refined grains, and modern dwarf wheat full of super-starch and super-gluten, can be problematic.’
Mentioning of dwarf wheat and its properties struck me in correlation with gluten-intolerance epidemic that I hear about all too often lately. My parents (and grandparents) had no such concept. There is another new and mysterious diagnosis out there – the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This one becomes popular in cases when a digestion problem is not exactly understood.
Though we are fairly informed on the controversy of genetically modified (GM) grain, no one seems connecting the dots:
We are sensitive (allergic, intolerant…) not to wheat per se, but to its genetic mutants that bring havoc into our bodies.
I say ‘we’ because stats indicate 30% of gluten-related diagnoses, and they are on the rise; also because, we still recognize very few effects of GM foods besides the most immediate.
Meanwhile mainstream media is comfortably dwelling on the absence of clear evidence against GM grains – i.e., they are safe.
‘A scientist examines a GM crop’ (this is the original comment from a pro-GM article)

My first afterthought was: well, I try to protect my family by buying mostly organic wheat products. How safe are we?

To assess the level of our vulnerability, I started researching the issue and here are my findings:
First of all the impact of mutated wheat is not limited to compromised digestion. As Dr. Mark Hyman said in ‘Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat’:
…The first major difference of this dwarf wheat is that it contains very high levels of a super starch called amylopectin A…
… We know that foods with a high glycemic index make people store belly fat, trigger hidden fires of inflammation in the body, and give you a fatty liver leading the whole cascade of obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes.
…Not only does this dwarf, FrankenWheat, contain the super starch, but it also contains super gluten which is much more likely to create inflammation in the body…
… wheat products, not just gluten (along with sugar in all its forms) is the major contributor to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression and so many other modern ills.

And did you know that GM wheat already ousted the real one IN MOST PARTS OF THE WORLD?
Frankly, I didn’t.
For the vast expansion of GM wheat we have to thank, in particular, Norman Ernest Borlaug, an American agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate.
Borlaug received his Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties. Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India.
As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India.  Later in his life, he helped apply these methods of increasing food production to Asia and Africa.
The scientist had great intentions to feed the starving world. It worked short-term but also contaminated farming lands making them barren; destroyed traditional agricultural communities and made people sick. 
As a result the old-fashioned –i.e. real wheat became an exotic rarity. And therefore today, many nutritionists recommend to exclude gluten-containing products altogether without even explaining to their patients  that the problem is not with the food staple but with its industrial imposter. 
This simplification agrees perfectly with GM seed producers: they are not afraid to lose customers because not too many people are capable of rejecting wheat entirely.
I looked through several discussions on going gluten-free. Among a steam of enthusiastic confessions I noticed quite a few laments on difficulty adjusting to such a diet. The reasons are objective:
The modern dwarf mutant variant of Triticum aestivum (that our USDA urges us to eat more of) contains greater proportions of gluten proteins compared to wheat pre-1970.
Glutens are the source of wheat-derived exorphins. Beyond removing an exceptionally digestible carbohydrate that yields blood sugar rises higher than nearly any other known food (due to the unique amylopectin structure of wheat-derived carbohydrate), wheat withdrawal is a form of opiate withdrawal, somewhat like stopping heroin, Oxycontin, and other opiates. Stop eating whole wheat toast for breakfast, whole grain sandwiches for lunch, or whole grain pasta for dinner, and the flow of exorphins, i.e., exogenous morphine-like compounds, stops. You experience dysphoria (sadness, unhappiness), mental "fog," inability to concentrate, fatigue, and decreased capacity to exercise.
Heroin, Oxycontin, and a whole wheat bagelBy Dr. William Davis:
So, mutant wheat makes us specifically addictive to it, which justifies the title of the above article 100%. 
The information regarding genetic status of organic wheat that is now available on the market is quite confusing as well. Some experts say that often wheat is called organic, but it is the same mutant (because old-fashioned grain is hard to find), just grown without pesticides.
The only reassurance I found on the following site:
They say:
In order to advertise their crops as (USDA) certified organic, farmers must show that their crops are free of chemicals and genetically modified material.
My relief was unfortunately short-lived, because they also say:
Complete segregation of GM crops from conventional and organic crops cannot be guaranteed, so the introduction of a new GM crop could contaminate the organic food supply.
So, here we are:
  •     Organic farmers straggle to give us wholesome food
  •     Industrial giants make it difficult in ways more than one. Even if you plant organic, your crop can be contaminated by neighboring  ‘conventional’ fields.
The entire situation reminds me of science fiction stories I read in my youth (Ray Bradbury? Isaac Asimov?) : An elite group of world rulers have captured all the real food and keep it away from the rest of the population. These less fortunate are fed artificially created synthetic products. To avoid unrest the rulers convince people that synthetic food was totally superior to the dirty, rotting and stinking natural produce.
By the way, Norman Borlaug’s contribution to the world food supply was called ‘Green Revolution’.
I wish it was fiction.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finding information you can trust

To make a good health-related decision nowadays one needs thorough and extensive research. But with modern unprecedented access to information the issue of its reliability becomes critical. Plainly speaking it is not easy to find information you can really trust.

Traditional criteria, like 'provided by reputable government agency or academic institution' do not guarantee you an honest answer to your question.

As it was already mentioned regarding sun block, some government agencies prefer to vocalize 'legally safe' opinions - i.e., the most conservative and mainstream-science-approved. These opinions may be ineffective or simply wrong - it doesn't matter. What matters is that no one can accuse an organization or individual for promoting them. 

In couple of years these highly regarded agencies and institutions might change their recommendations, but we must keep in mind that nobody ever said 'O-ops, sorry!' to people who already took another controversial pill.  

The referrals to a 'scientific study' also do not guarantee you truth, because depending on financial backing of the study, its interpretations may be more favorable to a certain drug producer.

And then there are honest mistakes, simplistic approaches and unwarranted conclusions...  

We also tend to trust general statements like 'scientifically proven' or 'FDA approved'. Unfortunately, the first can be groundless while the second - only relevant to immediate side-effects.

And one must always be very careful with a statement made by people intending to sell you something.  

I usually do my research in circles, refining key words in the process and providing comparative analysis to selected pieces of information. I also try to evaluate possible motives of their authors. Eventually this helps me to formulate the working assumption, and then I am looking for evidence proving or refuting it.  

My professional skills and knowledge in the areas of patent analysis and Anticipatory Failure Determination [1] come handy here by providing variety of tools for the purpose of revealing underlying root-causes and motives. But for those who are not familiar with any of these I would rather recommend listening to their gut feeling and common sense than mindlessly following any 'professional' advice.

In this free, abundant and challenging modern world no stranger is responsible for our well-being and pursuit of happiness.  

[1] Anticipatory Failure Determination approach (AFD) – the methodology of revealing root-causes and predicting potential negative events. AFD is the part of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ). 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Aging Liberates

Passing lately a hair salon at a local plaza I noticed a poster of young woman with beads in her hair. The advertisement said ‘hair bling’. 

‘Rubbish!’ – was my immediate reaction but then I checked myself. ‘Maybe it is not attractive for me now, but 30 years ago I might’ve jumped on the opportunity of having something like this on my head.‘

Is this a sign that I do not care how I look anymore?

In one smart and insightful article about aging the author made her point that aging liberates - men do not notice you anymore, so why bother (dying your hair or wearing heels).

With this for some reasons I could not agree.

Old Woman by Guido Reni

I think, I never looked at my femininity as a burden.

Since early teens it was a big part of my stride towards becoming the best person I could be. Looking good was not about pretense – rather about self-expression and certain bravado. 

In my prime femininity was my closest friend, bold and challenging at times, but also deeply rewarding. Perhaps that is why I feel no need to be liberated from it now in my late 50s.

Why should I relax or change direction if I am not tired living my life?

I also doubt that people ignore older women entirely. I think, they still notice us, just for different reasons - for our approval, or expertise for example.

It is quite interesting though, that a man can be bald or hairy, neat or totally unkempt and still be considered smart or important. With us women this evaluation is much more connected to the way we look.

A well-groomed and nicely dressed woman is often perceived also as  more competent. This effect was recently tested by giving the group of people pictures of the same women with and without makeup and asking them to indicate those who seemed smart.  The major conclusion was – those with reasonable makeup – i.e., who looked good.

I guess, by making an effort to look nice we send a message that we care about people around us, their opinions and what they are comfortable with. We let them know that they are important to us, as well as the particular occasion.

We also somehow expect an older lady who took time to make a hairdo and touch her lips with a hint of lipstick to be in a good mood.  I am not sure how it works, but a smile and even the anticipation of a smile makes us feel better.

So when we get older it is not that we should abandon an effort – just gradually change means.  

And on another note:
Several years ago the grandmother of my then son-in-law  came to our parts for a visit. She was in her 80s, recently diagnosed with advanced stage of cancer, and decided to see her grandchildren for the last time. Her life, as I heard, was no picnic - a working-class wife and mother who had survived Depression and war. She lost to cancer first – her husband, then - one after another - both of her daughters.

I expected to see a woman in deep despair, a human wreck.   Instead on my porch arrived a nice little lady with silver curls and French manicure. She enthusiastically tried a glass of wine and strong Turkish-style coffee my husband made for her. She also looked genuinely interested in our exotic stories about life in former USSR.

She died several months later, and many things happened since then. I think though, that her visit taught me a lesson on not just how to live but how to go.

It is quite possible that when we make an effort to the end, we actually extend our life through people's memory. Even - of distant people.

They may think about us years after with respect, gratitude or just with a smile.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Indian Food

With people I know it is like this: one either likes Indian food right away or hates it forever!

Heading for India we were set on trying new things. It made us easy to go from ‘Oh, this is so... different’ to ‘We definitely like it’, and then - to ‘We like it a lot!’

I mean traditional Indian food, full of flavors, spicy and completely vegetarian.

My first introduction to it happened in the middle of the night in the Delhi airport, while waiting 6 long hours for our flight to Chennai.

At a pretty ordinary food stand I bought a cup of coffee with a pretty ordinary-looking pastry named ‘Samosa’. The first bite surprised me though.
‘Why is this stuff so hot? It seems unsuitable with sweet coffee’   

But after a while I forgot about spiciness and started enjoying the yummy factor. Strangely enough through all those exotic flavors I recognized bold and earthy taste of my grandma’s beef-and-potato stew. Was it caramelized onion, or beans in this pastry? I could not tell. My grandma’s stew was never vegetarian, and yet…

Learned that we liked Indian food our hosts In Chennai, where we provided seminars, started enthusiastically introducing us to it.  In the morning they offered us a really strong coffee or black tea with milk and some fragrant seeds. At first we stuck to our habits and asked for these drinks to be straight. But often we forgot to make the requests and then we just had it Indian way.

There is something special about Indian milk and cheese. Those skin-and-bones extraordinary peaceful cows that walk and lay freely in the middle of any mad urban traffic (and all the traffic in India is mad!) apparently do a very good job.

 Maybe it is a trade-off:
‘You do not eat me, and I give you a really good milk of a free-roaming, naturally fit and content creature’.  

Every lunch in India was a feast of great variety. Because the rule was followed in so many different places, not only in hotels and restaurants, but also in small offices and at huge manufacturing plants, I dare to assume that hospitality was only part of the equation; another part of it was table tradition. Lunch in India is important and good variety of dishes is expected.
Another pleasant surprise of the vegetarian - Indian style, was the feeling of satiety that usually came pretty quickly and then lasted for hours without fail. It was quite sudden, like ‘yes, I had enough’, but without a brick feeling in your stomach that is almost an eminent companion at our ‘western’ parties. Where this signal of ‘enough’ comes from at Indian meals I do not know, but it always seemed to be more of emotional rather than of physical nature.  

Every meal in India includes sweets. They do not make any break between non-sweet and sweet food, just follow one with another. Indians believe that sweets aid digestion and I shared this belief with enthusiasm.  Desserts are usually small and often honey-based.

One sweet thing called Jalebi felt like kids’ ultimate dream and had been confirmed as such by our partner in Delhi – the burly man with thick mustache. We tried it in a street eatery at the Delhi bazar.

It was a nice, breezy evening. Amazingly bright fabrics in garland-illuminated stores, and crowds of people around proved of perpetual festival.

The lace-like Jalebi came straight from iron grill; it was sizzling hot, crisp on the outside with honey liquid inside.
And yes, I could not resist another one.

Indians seem to give digestion a very thorough attention. For this purpose they like to end every meal with plain yogurt. I also often saw the sets of small boxes with various seeds in them, which people would approach after breakfast or lunch and partake liberally. These seeds were to assist digestion and to make breathe fragrant. One of the seeds I recognized – it was fennel.

Another interesting digestion/breathe remedy was a minty leaf smeared with honey and spices,  and some seeds wrapped in it. You were supposed to chew it like a gum for about 30 min. rather than eat it right away. They also clean your teeth. 

Raw food was present on many occasions but I dared not to try it particularly warned against anything uncooked in India. Even locals did not encourage us to eat raw.
 ‘You have different immune system’ they said.

It looked very good though. I gazed with envy at the sprouted beans and cabbage salad, which my husband tried without hesitation. He said it was spicy (and he was completely OK afterwards).

In the very nice hotel in Bangalore I tried passion fruit and Indian melon.

To the end of our trip I was ready to go back to our usual food and was glad when on Delta flight Amsterdam – Detroit dinner came completely ‘European’. 

But in 2 weeks afterwards I started missing Indian and looking on the Internet for a restaurant in the area.    

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Flattering Power of Sari

At 2:00 a.m. in the Delhi airport, India I saw more sequence and glitter than in my entire life.
With my husband we had just arrived in India for business and were awaiting our first domestic flight to Chennai. I was trying to get some sleep on the side of the  bench surrounding  octagonal pillar; my head was close to a turban of a tiny old man, my feet - to a family of three (they were using their side of the bench in turn). 
Women in saris were coming and going – old and young, slim and not.  I was practically screaming ‘look at this!’ at every passing gown. There was not even one sari that I liked less - each and every of them looked amazing!

My husband completely agreed with me on that.

The vibrancy of colors, often calculatedly matching, but also in bold combinations (for example, a yellow blouse,  dark blue sari with magenta-and-gold  borders) and large number of bracelets, anklets and necklaces made me think that we had arrived at the advent of a major national holiday.
But I was wrong. This was totally casual attire of an Indian woman.

Later I saw ladies in sari in offices and cafĂ©', on motorcycles (behind the driver, or as a driver) looking very comfortable and at ease in their elaborate gowns and jewelry.  Not just a few women, but most of them. It was an apparent dress code.

Now I had a chance to look closely and here are my findings:
Sari is the most strategic and universally flattering gown in the world. The young proportionate woman looks a goddess in it. But all the rest of us – short, heavy, bowlegged – somehow appear very dignified (and pretty too).

The reason, besides glitter, is a variety of strategic folds and angles at which  fabric is draped.
Two embellished borders of a sari cross the body in front: the inner border comes across the chest; it accents the X shape and makes  shoulder line stronger and wider thus giving the figure better proportion. The outside border starts in front  below the hip. This one crosses the entire body at a long diagonal, visually slimming it and making legs look longer. Not too bad, a?
Then, there is a folding gathered at the waist and strategically positioned slightly off-center. This folding keeps  fabric at the woman’s tummy perfectly loose, making the entire ‘tummy issue’ irrelevant.
There are no protruding female tummies in India!
It made me wonder of the advantages of growing up and never giving yourself a judging side-ways look into the mirror followed by sucking your stomach up hard, and then, as long as you can manage without breathing, watching it perfectly flat, hoping it stayed that way…
Apparently Indian teenagers are free from such experiences; their mothers and grandmothers – as well.
And I am not finished with the folding yet. When a woman moves folded fabric precedes her every step framing her foot like a long conical bell or fan. The leg underneath seems endless and its movement – regal. No wonder, high heels are not popular in India. Who needs them when such gracefulness can be achieved in flip-flops!
I could not help myself comparing the flattering power of sari to our western clothes and must admit that we are at disadvantage here. If I can trust my travel observations few women look good in  business suit. It makes us bulky on the top and shows no mercy to our ‘normal’ bottoms by exposing imperfect width or shape of our hips, those treacherously protruding stomachs and true length (or should I say, shortness) of our legs. We try to compensate for all this cruelty by good,  expensive fabrics and muted 'earthy' colors.

But next to a woman in sari we look like little grey hens near a peacock.
During our visit to a construction company in Delhi, my husband and I passed a young female worker carrying a cement block on her head. She was wearing a cotton gauze green-and-indigo sari smartly tacked for convenience.
-  Look at this gorgeous thing - I said to my husband, - I would've loved to have it for a very special occasion!
-  What, a cement block?

Monday, August 1, 2011

American Food Quiz

At the MSN site - my designated source of news, I’ve run into this title: ‘Traditional American food quiz’.
It looked really exciting to learn more about authentic American food: the old-fashioned and simple recipes of pioneers, frontiers, cowboys and Indians. Those daring and zesty people had formed close and powerful relations with nature and for sure knew a thing or two about healthy natural food. 
I was imagining something like this

The starting question in the quiz was a surprise:
-          Who first served burgers?
Overcoming my disappointment I clicked ‘McDonalds. It was the wrong answer. The right one was - ‘White Castle’.
I kind of got the idea that the quiz was not exactly what I expected but rather about processed food, so I frowned and checked the next question right. This one was ‘how much French fries are consumed in the US per year’. I just went with the most outrageous number (2 bill.) which appeared to be correct.
Inspired by the hint I hit the next question correctly too. It inquired about the kind of cheese that is put on top of cheesesteaks. Out of several options I’ve selected the most mysterious (at least for me) – ‘Cheese Whiz’.
Having a strong suspicion that it was not even cheese but rather a so-called ‘cheese product’ I checked it in Wikipedia. My suspicion was confirmed.
It made me wonder why linoleum is not called  ‘oil product’ – one of its components (according to abovementioned Wikipedia) is linseed oil.
Next several questions I missed.
I did not know that Buffalo wings should be served with blue cheese dressing and that Coca Cola had been invented in Georgia.  And out of complete frustration I checked the wrong answer to traditional Texan barbeque (I knew, it was beef! Like in the movie ‘Giant’ with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean)
Anyway, my quiz summary was:
-          4 correct answers – Just visiting?
I liked the joke.
But with the final statement in the quiz I agreed wholeheartedly and therefore decided to copy it here:
‘The origins of American cuisine are rich and varied.’
I wished though, that   publications about real (not commercial) American food were more around.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Anti-Bucket List

For  the last several years I have been collecting information on foods with reported anti-cancer properties, especially those that are recommended against breast cancer - i.e., my personal anti-bucket list.

To have this information at hand when needed, I printed the list out and pinned it by my working desk. From time to time I browse it through to refresh my memory and to see if some of the items are lacking in my diet. When additional useful information arrives I add it to the list and reprint it.

I do realize that anti-cancer properties of certain foods can be overestimated or simply not true. Still, they may as well work and definitely will not harm anyone.

Therefore, I am sharing this list below:

  1. Brassica vegetables (regulate cell growth rates, and help to change a strong and inflammatory form of estrogen (estradiol) into a safer, less aggressive form (estrone); also an antioxidant),  including:
    1. Broccoli sprouts
    2. Broccoli
    3. Radish
    4. Cabbage
    5. Brussels sprouts
    6. Kale,
    7. Mustard greens
    8. Tofu 
  2. Turmeric, ginger (suppress inflammation) - 1tsp dried spice daily
  3. 1%-2% organic hormone free milk (not fat-free!)
  4. Kefir and other fermented milk products
  5. Omega 3 fatty acids in:
    1. Fatty fish –
                       i.      Salmon
                       ii.      Tuna
                       iii.      Whitefish
                       iv.      Anchovies
                       v.      Mackerel  
    1. Sea vegetables
    2. Walnuts  
    3. Eggs
    4. Olive oil
  1. Lentils and other legumes   (contains Folic acid - 600 mcg or more of folic acid a day)
  2. Maitake mushrooms
  3. Tomatoes (Licopene)
  4. Flaxseeds
  5. Antioxidant and detox properties in:
    1. Green and white tea (Caffeinated brands have twice as much potency as decaffeinated)
    2. Garlic
    3. Onions 
    4. Dark chocolate
    5. Citrus, peel and white membrane of oranges
    6. Cranberries
    7. Apples
    8. Grapes (Concord)
    9. Dark cherries
    10. Blueberries  
  6. Coffee – for Women with BRCA1 gene mutations
Eventually as you can see, the list became quite long.

It made me think that I can live entirely on these foods feeling deprived of nothing. Besides, practically every item on this list is not just a single-benefit provider, but rather a multitasker targeting also other types of cancer, arthritis, digestive problems, immune deficiency and such.

This ability of a single common produce to tackle several scary conditions is still not rivaled by modern medicine.

My doctors once assured me that drug Tamoxifen was very good because it could reduce the risk of breast cancer up to 40%. 

Meanwhile  the research from Michigan State University in East Lansing found that those who ate raw or lightly cooked cabbage and sauerkraut more than three times a week were 72 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who had 1.5 or fewer servings. Now, add to the plate some salmon with beans and onions on the side...As for dessert, chocolate, anyone? 

A dinner like that can beat Tamoxifen down any day.
And NO SIDE EFFECTS, mind you!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Protector or…Perpetrator?

... Or, as my friend put it:
"To sunscreen, or not to sunscreen....that is the question."

While persuasions on using sunscreen are getting more persistent than ever, there is a new (though not surprising) evidence that one of the possible culprits in skin cancers can be the sunscreen itself.

Numerous recent epidemiological studies indicate an increased risk of malignant melanoma for the sunscreen users. For example:
Worldwide, the countries where chemical sunscreens have been recommended and adopted have experienced the greatest rise in cutaneous malignant melanoma, with a contemporaneous rise in death rates.

In the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Scandinavian countries, melanoma rates have risen steeply in recent decades, with the greatest increase occurring after the introduction of sunscreens. Death rates in the United States from melanoma doubled in women and tripled in men between the 1950s and the 1990s.

The rise in melanoma has been unusually steep in Queensland, Australia, where sunscreens were earliest and most strongly promoted by the medical community. Queensland now has the highest incidence rate of melanoma in the world. In contrast, the rise in melanoma rates was notably delayed elsewhere in Australia, where sunscreens were not promoted until more recently.

'Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk?' by Garland C, Garland F, Gorham E (04/01/1992).. Am J Public Health 82 (4): 614–5.

Look, what I've found:
nail sunscreen!
In a new population-based, matched, case-control study from southern Sweden (of all places! How much sun do they have really?) of 571 patients with a first diagnosis of cutaneous malignant melanoma, between 1995 and 1997, and 913 healthy controls aged 16 to 80 years, the association between sunscreen use and malignant melanoma was evaluated as follows:
The median sun protection factor (SPF) used by both cases and controls was 6, range 2 to 25. Sunscreen users reported greater sun exposure than non-users. Persons who used sunscreens did not have a decreased risk of malignant melanoma. Instead, a significantly elevated odds ratio (OR) for developing malignant melanoma after regular sunscreen use was found, adjusted for history of sunburns, hair color, frequency of sunbathing during the summer, and duration of each sunbathing occasion [OR = 1.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1-2.9].

'Sunscreen use and malignant melanoma', by Westerdahl J; Ingvar C; Masback A; Olsson H (2000). International journal of cancer. Journal international du cancer 87: 145–50.

There are even stronger opinions regarding sunscreen impact on our health:
The scientific evidence… shows quite clearly that sunscreen actually promotes cancer by blocking the body's absorption of ultraviolet radiation, which produces vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D, as recent studies have shown, prevents up to 77 of ALL cancers in women (breast cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, brain tumors, multiple myeloma... you name it). Meanwhile, the toxic chemical ingredients used in most sunscreen products are actually carcinogenic and have never been safety tested or safety approved by the FDA. They get absorbed right through the skin (a porous organ that absorbs most substances it comes into contact with) and enter the bloodstream.
Proponents say sunscreen prevents sunburn, but in fact, the real cause of sunburn is not merely UV exposure: It is a lack of antioxidant nutrition. Start eating lots of berries and microalgae (spirulina, astaxanthin, blue-green algae, etc.), and you'll build up an internal sunscreen that will protect your skin from sunburn from the inside out. Sunburn is actually caused by nutritional deficiencies that leave the skin vulnerable to DNA mutations from radiation, but if you boost your nutrition and protect your nervous system with plant-based nutrients, you'll be naturally resistant to sunburn.

'The sunscreen myth: How sunscreen products actually promote cancer', by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews

While this discussion is only starting, the majority of people  are following the recommendations of American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (see 'Under the Sun') without questioning.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends now broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30. Doctors stress the importance of using plenty of sunscreen -- a golf ball-sized full ounce of sunscreen for a normal size adult body, reapplied every two hours.

However, we put on our bodies not only sunscreen. Every year more and more cosmetic products are used. A single jar of face cream is no longer enough: we apply one cream at night, another – at daytime (with sunscreen in it!); special cream - for the eye area; also serum and cleanser.

Only two decades ago, my mom’s beauty regiment was very different. It included water, soap and … nothing much else. Every now and then she would buy a new face cream, something honey-based, according to the label. After the first enthusiastic application she would place the jar into the fridge following a girlfriend’s advice and… forget it there.

In three months the cream usually became either rancid, or dried up. And after my complaints on its unsightly view, it ended up on my mothers’ shoes, of which she took a really great care.

By the way, till her last days my mother had beautiful clean skin with natural glow and not so many wrinkles. 

Today women start following beauty tips early in life, when we all try to look like girls on glossy pages. At this age cancers seem distant and irrelevant. Eventually we end up with all this ‘stuff’…

How many harmful chemicals do we absorb during our lifetime?

I stopped using sunscreens years ago, with no scientific data available to back my decision. As on several other issues I refused to follow the superficial trend, implying that the major source of life on earth is our enemy. I also relied on experience of past generations when sunburns were totally common, but skin cancer - unheard of. Those people, of course, led cleaner and simpler lives, while we ‘cannot afford it’ anymore.

But the choice is always with us: to continue our affordable chemicals-saturated existence and eventually become at war with sun, water, air, blooming plants, and food, or to clean our act and start living in harmony with nature, as it was intended.

As to the protection against excessive sun exposure, the research from Dr. Ronald Watson at the University of Arizona confirms that the antioxidants in red, yellow and orange foods build up under the skin creating extra UV protection.

"The effect is so strong that eating six portions a day for about two months will build a natural barrier equivalent to a factor four sunscreen".

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From my own humble experience, since I started eating more fruits and vegetables and by increasing summer sun exposure gradually, my skin tans visibly easier and never burns.