Health News
Natural Products Expo West 2011 - My Nutritional Mecca PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Friday, April 22, 2011

NaturalProductsExpoBannerImagine walking the aisles of your local Whole Foods Market and being able to taste and take home sample-size packages of every product in the store, especially if it's organic, gluten-free or "natural" energy bars, fresh fruit, dried fruit, protein powder, green drinks, breads, snack foods, ice cream and chocolate, coffee, tea, waters, beer, wine, yogurt, cheese, books, supplements and essential oils, beauty products, clothing, cookware, and even pet food, pet supplements, and pet products!  Now imagine being able to do it for three days in a row! - That's what the 2011 Natural Products Expo West was all about last month at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. It is the industry's largest trade show, where nearly EVERY company that produces anything resembling a "natural" product convenes for a weekend of tastings, educational seminars and networking events.

This was my fourth time attending the Natural Products Expo. As a nutrition educator, I consider it my "nutritional duty" to attend, so that I can scrupulously scope out, taste, read the ingredient lists, and talk to the company representatives (who are sometimes, like myself, also the company owners and creators of the products) of all of the new natural food products. This is how I am able to intelligently answer your question when you ask, "what is your opinion of....".

NaturalProductsExpoShowFloorI first must say that walking the floor of the Expo is both thrilling and daunting. Even in three days, it was not possible to visit every vendor booth, as the exhibits covered more than 1 million square feet spread over 5 halls that span larger than a football field each. I was one of over 58,000 industry members from over 35 countries in attendance, and this year the Expo had the largest number of exhibits (3,533 to be exact) in its 31-year history.

Being at Expo is like Halloween on steroids, and this kid walked away each day with goodie bags full of samples so heavy that my shoulders hurt for days afterward. I filled up my bags with samples to take home so that I could remember all the samples I ate and drank while walking around!  It is the one time out of the year when I break my eating rules in order to serve the greater good!

Despite the extensive lineup of educational seminars and tours, by and large this event is all about the food.  And by and large, the food is all about catering to the needs of time-strapped consumers who want healthier choices while also being able to indulge their taste buds in sweet treats and snack foods. The aisles were crowded with attendees who seemed to be more interested in the organic ice cream bars, beers and chocolate than the convention's educational offerings.

There was also some fun competition among vendors to draw the most visitors to their booths. From the faux green pastures at the Odwalla booth to acoustic guitarists at the LaraBar booth to an appearance by Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser at the SoDelicious booth to horse rides provided by Organic Valley, it was a no-holds-barred contest for the most outrageous exhibit display.

Dee and Patricia Bragg Expo 2011One of the best parts of being an industry member is that I get to meet some of the big names in nutrition in an up close and personal setting.  Once again I had the opportunity to rub elbows with the very delightful Patricia Bragg of Bragg Live Food Products fame.  She is a true living legend, just like her father Paul, and definitely a woman who walks the walk.

But enough about that, let's get to the point of this article! Below are my highlights of some of the show's noteworthy products. Give them a try the next time you go shopping:



BraggBerryDressingBraggberry Organic Dressing and Marinade
Braggs has added a new variety to their line of vinaigrette salad dressings, and this one is truly delicious. It's made with the signature Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar® and flavored with a special blend of organic berries creatively selected to produce a memorable acronym:

B= Blueberry
R= Raspberry
A= Acai Berry
G= Goji Berry
G= Grape

It's fat-free, salt-free and gluten-free. No sugar added, sweetened only with organic stevia herbal extract and natural fruits.  Bragg has several other salad dressings: Hawaiian, Ginger & Sesame, and Original Vinaigrette.

So Delicious No Sugar Added Coconut Milk Ice Cream
I am a huge fan of coconut milk, so I was thrilled two years ago when I first tasted the coconut milk ice creams by So Delicious at Expo. Their original coconut milk ice creams are sweetened with agave syrup and have upwards of 10-12 grams of sugar per serving. Now they are offering a low-sugar option with only 1 gram of sugar per serving. Keep your eyes peeled for these six mouthwatering flavors:

Mint Chip
Toasted Almond Chip
Vanilla Bean
Butter Pecan

These varieties are sweetened with erythritol and monk fruit. Although I am not a big fan of erythritol, I think an occasional indulgence in this ice cream would be an acceptable exception. It's yummy!

Alvarado Street Bakery
Fundamental Fiber 100% Sprouted Whole Wheat Flourless Bread

FundamentalFiberBreadThis is the only Flour-less High Fiber Sprouted Wheat Bread available anywhere. Made with certified organic sprouted whole grains, this deli-style wide loaf offers a whopping 5 grams of dietary fiber per slice. There are also 5 grams of protein per slice. The ingredient list reads as follows: Sprouted organic whole wheat berries, filtered water, wheat gluten, oat fiber, organic dates, fresh yeast, organic raisins, organic vinegar, cultured wheat, sea salt, safflower oil, pure barley malt.

Eden Foods Beans

Eden BPA-FreeSince April 1999 Eden beans feature cans with a baked-on c-enamel lining that does not contain the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A (BPA). Eden is the only company that pays the 14 percent premium to avoid bis-phenol When originally planning to make canned beans, they were told it was necessary to add at least two chemicals: calcium chloride to harden the skins so they wouldn't fall apart in cooking, and calcium disodium EDTA to hold the color. Eden tried them with just beans and pure water and they came out perfectly. Due to the vital soil that produces these beans, their much higher mineral content and stronger skins allows them to be cooked without need of these very undesirable chemicals.  Most of their beans are cooked with a bit of kombu sea vegetable. You don't taste the kombu, but its valuable amino acid profile smooths their mouth feel and enhances their flavor.


KelpNoodlesSeaTanlge LogoSea Tangle Kelp Noodles
If you're looking for a gluten-free, low carbohydrate noodle, these could fill the bill. Kelp Noodles are a sea vegetable in the form of an easy to eat raw noodle. Made of only kelp (a sea vegetable), sodium alginate (sodium salt extracted from a brown seaweed), and water, Kelp Noodles are fat-free, gluten-free, and very low in carbohydrates and calories. Their noodle forms a neutral taste which allows for a variety of uses including salads, stir-fries, hot broths, and casseroles, while their healthful content provides a rich source of trace minerals including iodine, which kelp is well known for. Their unique texture completes the package, making Kelp Noodles a one-of-a-kind healthful and tasty alternative to pasta and rice noodles. Best of all, no cooking is required. Just rinse and add the noodles to any dish and they are ready to eat!

Mary's Gone Crackers "Just The Crumbs"
Toward the end of last year, I was in need of some gluten-free bread crumbs, but couldn't find any in the health food stores, so I decided to buy some of the Mary's Gone Crackers "Sticks and Twigs" and grind them up in my Vitamix. They made a perfect alternative to a traditional bread crumb, and were actually much more flavorful. When I went to the Mary's Gone Crackers booth at Expo this year, I saw that Mary had stolen my idea! She has a new product called "Just the Crumbs", made from the crackers. They have a fantastic flavor in addition to being gluten-free. The crumbs are also a great replacement for croutons on salads. Try sprinkling them on top of any salad and they will liven up your food and add a nice crunch and seed flavor. Once you have them you will find a ton of great dishes to add them to!The crumbs come in three different flavors: Original, Savory Blend and Caraway. I'm hooked! By the way, my first time attending Expo West in 2007, I met Mary. She is a fellow health crusader who turned her own health challenge (gluten-intolerance) into a purpose-driven, altruistic enterprise.

teeccinoteebagsTeeccino Now in Single Serve Tee-bags
Pronounced Tea-Chee-No, this is the best way to kick a coffee habit. Naturally decaffeinated, Teeccino is a blend of herbs, grains, fruits, and nuts that are roasted and ground to brew and taste like coffee.And it does! Teeccino tastes so much like coffee that people think there must be coffee in it! Although the company has been around for quite some time, they now offer individual tea bags for easy brewing of just one cup. Choose from all 10 varieties of Original, Hazelnut, Java, Mocha, Vanilla Nut, Chocolate Mint, Almond Amaretto, Maya Caffe, Chai and Chocolate.

NibMor Organic Dark Chocolate
I really enjoyed talking to Heather Kenzie and Jennifer Love, owners of NibMor. They firmly believe in using their chocolate products to teach a bigger message: that the food we eat should be as simple and delicious as possible. That means using ingredients made by Mother Nature, not someone in a lab coat. They kicked refined sugar, dairy, gluten and GMO to the curb (bye bye off you go!) without sacrificing taste. What I really like about their products is that they use a variety of different sweeteners in the different products, so they are not all the same. The chocolate bars contain agave and the hot chocolate drink mixes contain coconut palm sugar (my new favorite sweetener that was big at Expo two years ago). Their chocolate is more delectable just knowing how pure it is!



Radiation Explained In Layman Terms and How To Protect Yourself If Exposed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Friday, April 08, 2011

The radiation leaking from nuclear power plants in Japan have us all concerned, and rightfully so.  Most of us know that exposure to radiation is very hazardous, even in low doses.  But most of us don't know exactly what radiation is and why it's so harmful.


I have to admit that I had to reach to the recesses of my brain for those old files from college chemistry and physics courses on radiation.  When my husband asked whether or not what the TV reporters were saying was accurate, I couldn't answer with certainty. 


The memory of what I learned about radioactive elements in college was hazy, so I went to my computer and spent hours and hours on the internet refreshing myself on the basics.  In this article, I will explain to you in simple terms, how radiation is formed, when and why it's dangerous, and the steps you can take to protect yourself.


You'll have to bear with me, as I make no apologies for the length of this article.  To understand radiation and why it's harmful, you need to know a few things first.


 How Nuclear Power Works


All power plants require some way of creating heat, or energy,  to boil water. The boiling water creates steam that is used to turn a turbine. As the turbine spins, the generator turns and its magnetic field produces electricity. The electricity is then carried through power lines to all of the places we use it.


 Some power plants burn coal or oil for heat to boil water for making steam. At nuclear power plants, the heat used to boil the water is created when atoms are split apart -- called nuclear fission. 


An atom is the smallest form of matter in the universe. Matter is anything that can be touched physically. Everything in the universe (except energy) is made of matter, and, so, everything in the universe is made of atoms.


An atom itself is made up of three tiny kinds of particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons. The protons and the neutrons make up the center of the atom (called the nucleus) and the electrons fly around above the nucleus in a small cloud. The electrons carry a negative charge and the protons carry a positive charge. Neutrons have no charge. 


 Within an atom, the negative electrons are attracted to the positive nucleus by the same type of electrical force that causes magnets to work. That's what holds atoms together and prevents them from splitting apart.diagram


In a stable atom the number of protons and the number of electrons are equal. Often, but not always, the number of neutrons is the same too.  For instance, a carbon atom has 6 protons, 6 neutrons, and 6 electrons.  An iodine atom has 53 protons, 74 neutrons, and 53 electrons. When you add the number of electrons to the number of neutrons, you get the atomic mass (weight).  Therefore, carbon has an atomic mass of 12, and iodine has an atomic mass of 127.


There's another term you might have heard of - isotopes.  An isotope is a variant of a particular atom that has a different number of neutrons but always the same number of protons.  For example, carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14 are three isotopes of the element carbon with atomic masses of 12, 13 and 14 respectively. The atomic number of carbon is 6 (every carbon atom has 6 protons); therefore the neutron numbers in these isotopes are 6, 7 and 8 respectively.


Other elements, such as iodine, can also have isotopes. 


Hold those thoughts while I explain what radiation is.


What is Radiation?


Like with most things in science, it gets a bit complex, but radiation is basically a form of energy.  "Radioactivity" is the term used to describe the natural process by which some atoms spontaneously disintegrate, emitting both particles and energy as they transform into different, more stable atoms. This process, also called radioactive decay, occurs because unstable isotopes tend to transform into a more stable state.


There are two distinct types of radiation; ionizing and non-ionizing. Ionizing radiation means that the energy being emitted is powerful enough to ionize atoms, meaning to break atoms into its parts.


Non-ionizing radiation does not have enough energy to break atoms, but can only excite them to a higher energy state.  Electromagnetic waves, ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared, microwaves, and radio waves, are all examples of non-ionizing radiation.  The light from the sun that reaches the earth is largely composed of non-ionizing radiation, with the notable exception of some ultraviolet rays.


The word radiation is commonly used in reference to ionizing radiation only, but it may also refer to non-ionizing radiation such as radio waves or visible light.  Both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation can be harmful to organisms and can result in changes to the natural environment.  Ionizing radiation is potentially very hazardous to our health, because once it gets in or near our bodies, it can ionize our cells and the atoms that make up our DNA.


A substance is classified as "radioactive" when it is emitting ionizing radiation.  For example, uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive isotope that has been on earth since the planet was formed.  In its natural form, uranium is unstable, therefore it spontaneously emits, or "throws off" neutrons from its nucleus in order to become stable.


Uranium is a natural choice for nuclear power plants, because in order to split other atoms apart to create heat, a neutron is needed to get the reaction going.  The neutrons that spontaneously emit from uranium are used to split atoms of iodine, plutonium, and cesium, among others.  This induced chemical reaction is called nuclear fission, which takes place when the nucleus of an atom is split in two when it is struck by a neutron from another atom and releases energy in the form of heat.


While all of this may sound like great science, problems abound.  Exposure to this type of ionizing radiation causes damage to living tissue, resulting in skin burns, radiation sickness and death at high doses.  Low dose exposure causes cancer, tumors and genetic damage.


I know this is a lot of information, but stick with me. I'm now going to tell you why the iodine that is being detected in milk and the environment is something to be concerned about.



Background Radiation, What is it Really?


The media keeps telling us not to worry about the radioactive iodine that has been detected in milk and in the environment.  TV reporters say radiation is everywhere, that it's been part of our environment since the planet was born. They say radiation exists in the atmosphere, the ground, the water and even within our own bodies. It's called natural background radiation, and so far, they are saying, detected levels are normal and far below anything we should be concerned about.


According to Patricia Hansen, an FDA senior scientist, Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared to what people experience every day. For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round trip cross country flight, watching television and even from construction materials.


In fact, you can check the EPA website and the Radiation Network website to get up to date information on background radiation levels in sites all over the country.  They have maps with all the places in the country where monitoring stations are set up, and what the most recent detection levels are.


But there's a flaw with this information.  The type of background radiation being monitored  does not discern between the type that comes from non-ionizing radiation and ionizing radiation.  There is no way to know if we are being exposed to visible light, radio waves, or the kind that comes from induced nuclear fission. And there's a big difference.


The splitting of atoms creates intense heat and ionizing radiation coming from radioactive isotopes affects our bodies by depositing energy in our tissues, which can cause damage to our cells and DNA.


There are four types of ionizing radiation that we can come into contact with in our normal environment: (1) alpha radiation, (2) beta radiation, (3) gamma rays, and (4) neutrons.



  • Alpha emitters are isotopes that emit alpha particles. Alpha particles are the most destructive form of radiation compared to others such as gamma particles and beta particles. While alpha particles are the most destructive form of radiation, they also have a low penetrating force. Alpha radiation can be stopped by a piece of paper and poses a concern mainly when it is emitted inside the body (I will discuss this a bit later). When the alpha emitter is on the surface of the skin, the dead layer of the skin adequately protects the body from harm by trapping the emitted alpha particles.  However, if the skin has a wound, the alpha emitter can enter the body through the wound and cause harm.  Also, if the alpha emitter is ingested through food or drink, it can cause harm. Examples of some alpha emitters: iodine-131, radium, radon, uranium, and thorium.


  • Beta emitters are isotopes that emit beta particles.  Beta radiation can pass through the dead layer of the skin and cause harm to the body if the body is not protected. Beta radiation can be stopped by aluminum.  Clothing can provide some protection from beta radiation injury to humans when the beta emitter lands on the outside of the clothing. Beta emitters that are inhaled into the lung or ingested into the gastrointestinal tract can cause harm.  Examples of some beta emitters: strontium-90, carbon-14, tritium, and sulfur-35.


  • Gamma rays can go through the entire body if not protected and can damage multiple organs.  Gamma rays can be diffused by lead (which is why lead aprons are used to protect you when you're getting a X-ray).  Gamma emitters that land on the outside of the body and those taken inside the body both can cause harm.  Clothing provides little protection from gamma rays. Examples of some gamma emitters: iodine-131, cesium-137, cobalt-60, and radium-226.


  • Neutrons are the only type of ionizing radiation that can make other objects, or material, radioactive. This process, called neutron activation, is the primary method used to produce radioactive sources for use in medical, academic, and industrial applications.  High-energy neutrons can travel great distances in air and typically require hydrogen rich shielding, such as concrete or water, to block them. A common source of neutron radiation occurs inside a nuclear reactor, where many feet of water is used as effective shielding.  Neutrons can penetrate deep into the body, and while doing so, can produce gamma rays through their interaction with tissue atoms.  Thus, all neutron exposures involve some gamma rays. Clothing provides essentially no protection from neutrons.


The below diagram illustrates the relative abilities of three different types of ionizing radiation to penetrate solid matter. Alpha particles (α) are stopped by a sheet of paper while beta particles (β) are stopped by an aluminium plate. Gamma radiation (γ) is dampened when it penetrates matter. 



So, the maps showing levels of radiation are helpful to be able to check if radiation levels are rising in your area, because this could be due to radiation coming from Japan. But unfortunately low doses of radiation can be just as harmful, contrary to what we are being told.


Stable Iodine versus Radioactive Iodine


Iodine exists in nature as a stable isotope.  It is not radioactive.  It is relatively rare, yet it is essential for life in many species, and especially for the functioning of the thyroid gland in humans and animals.  Because of its rarity, about 2 billion people are iodine deficient. 


When naturally stable iodine gets struck by neutrons during induced nuclear fission, it forms an unstable (or radioactive) isotope.  The iodine-127 mentioned above, absorbs 4 neutrons into its nucleus, creating iodine-131.  Iodine-131 is radioactive because it is not stable.  It wants to revert back to being Iodine-127, so it "throws off" those 4 four neutrons in the form of ionizing energy.  But the "decay" takes time, it doesn't happen all at once.  The rate of decay is measured in terms of a half-life. 


What's a Half-Life?


Half-life is a measure of the time it takes for one half of the atoms of a particular radioactive isotope to disintegrate (or decay) into a more stable form.  The half-life of radioactive iodine-131 is 8 days.  That means it takes 8 days for half of it to decay. 


Let's say you have a pound of radioactive iodine - it would take 8 days for a half pound of it to decay.  You would then have a half pound of radioactive iodine left. It would then take another 8 days for half of that to decay, leaving still a quarter pound.  Then another 8 days for half of that to decay and so on until all of it has been transformed back to iodine-127.


The Problem With Radioactive Iodine


It might sound safe that radioactive iodine has a short half-life of only 8 days.  But what happens if you get some of that radioactive iodine into your body before the 8 days are up?  Our bodies can't tell the difference between a radioactive form of iodine and a stable form.  In fact radioactive isotopes of any element will get used by nature and by our bodies as if it were not radioactive. 


So, if you ingest radioactive iodine by breathing it or by drinking contaminated milk or water, EVEN IN LOW DOSES, that radioactive iodine will be taken up by your thyroid gland, especially if you are deficient in iodine already.  Research has shown that over 95 percent of Americans are deficient in iodine.


Once it has taken hold in your thyroid gland, it's bad news.  Radioactive iodine is an alpha-emitter, the most destructive kind of radiation.  It will emit ionizing radiation directly into your thyroid.  This would be the equivalent of getting a serious dose of radiation directed into your thyroid continuously for 8 days (and longer due to half-life) without any protection! This is why iodine-131 is one of the most carcinogenic nuclear fission products.


You also have to keep in mind it is not just the thyroid gland that is at risk with exposure to radioactive iodine. The breasts, ovaries, uterus, prostate, skin, and other organs all require iodine.  In fact, every cell in our body requires iodine for optimal functioning. Therefore, if we are iodine deficient, exposure to radioactive iodine can potentially result in damage to all the cells of the body.


What You Can Do to Protect Yourself


You may have heard about stores selling out of potassium iodide tablets.  Taking these tablets saturate your thyroid gland with stable iodine and prevent radioactive iodine from filling iodine receptors in the thyroid gland.


It's important to understand that potassium iodide offers no protection from direct radiation exposure or OTHER airborne radioactive particles like cesium, plutonium or uranium.


However, you can and should protect yourself by saturating your thyroid with potassium iodine or another form of iodine if you have any fear that you may come into contact with radioactive iodine.  BUT YOU MUST DO IT BEFORE EXPOSURE.  Doing it afterward will have no effect.


Just 13 mg per day of iodine prevents approximately 96 percent of radioactive iodine from binding to the thyroid gland. This is over 100x the average daily dose of iodine ingested by Americans.


I must also say that iodized salt IS NOT a good source of iodine, so please don't think that using iodized salt will help you.  It will not. While iodine is very rare in nature, there are several key foods that are very high in iodine.  The best forms of natural iodine are sea vegetables (kelp, kombu, and nori).


Sea vegetables can provide sufficient levels of iodine to help prevent radiation poisoning of your glandular system. Kelp is an abundant source of natural iodine. One quarter of a teaspoon of organic kelp granules for example, provides 3 mg of iodine (milligrams, not micrograms).  Kelp is normally used as a kind of natural salt, to add a salty taste to soups, salads or just about any meal.  It's also very high in other trace minerals.

 All seaweeds contain iodine in a natural state. One of the highest is kombu, which contains up to 2500 mcg (micrograms) per gram of kombu. You can find kombu seaweed at many local health food stores, too. Just soak it in water to reconstitute it, and then you can cook it into foods or eat it on a salad. Cooking does not destroy iodine, so don't be afraid to heat it. Iodine is a trace mineral, and no minerals are destroyed through high-heat cooking (only vitamins and enzymes are fragile to heat).

Nori sheets (the seaweed sheets used to make sushi) are also a source of iodine, although they only contain about 16 mcg per gram. They're not nearly as iodine rich as kombu, but nori is easy to find and delicious to eat.  Combining it with other sources of iodine will help ensure that you are getting enough.


Apple pectin was used after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster in 1986 to reduce the load of radioactive cesium in children.  Pectin is a soluble fiber contained in the skins of apples.  It has a gel-forming effect when mixed with water, and has been proven to remove heavy metals, and even radioactive Strontium-90 from the digestive tract.


A study led by V.B. Nesterenko at the Belrad Institute of Radiation Safety was performed to see if orally administered apple pectin was effective in binding radioactive cesium-137 in the gut from food contaminated by radiation, or if eating "clean," non-contaminated food was enough. The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving children from contaminated villages near the disaster area.

Radiation levels were measured at the beginning of the study and one month later. At the end of the trial, cesium-137 levels in children who were given apple pectin were reduced by 62%. Children who had received "clean" food and a placebo had reduced radiation levels by only 13.9%. These results proved that taking apple pectin can significantly prevent damage from radiation exposure.


Eating organic apples is a good practice, but you can also purchase apple pectin in supplement form.


 Further Prevention


Ionizing radiation creates free radicals in the body, and we all have the capacity, to a certain extent, to repair free radical damage using the using the free-radical quenching capacities that we already have in our bodies or that we can add to our bodies.  Anti-oxidants are your only defense against free radicals, so you will need to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of them.  Antioxidants exist in vegetables and fruits, so eat lots of them.  You should also supplement with green powders and fresh live juices.


To learn more about radiation and nuclear power, check out these sources:

Center Submits Arguments Against Artificial Food Coloring PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael McCaffrey   
Monday, March 21, 2011

The Center for Processed-Free Living today submitted arguments against artificial food coloring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  On March 30th and 31st, 2011, the FDA Food Advisory Committee will be discussing a link between children's consumption of synthetic color additives in food and adverse effects on behavior. The letter and accompanying arguments can be found here.

In addition to submitting their scientific arguments against artificial food coloring, the Center submitted 987 names of people who signed the Center's petition against these colorings and other artificial additives.

Studies in 2004 and 2007 conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton concluded that specific mixtures of artificial colors increase hyperactivity in certain children. Based on these findings, the United Kindgom's Food Standards Agency (FSA) determined there was enough evidence to recommend a ban on six food dyes, calling for their removal from all food and drink products in the United Kingdom by the end of 2009. Since the ban was enacted, the food industry has responded positively, replacing banned colors with natural pigments in products.

However, many of these same products are still sold in the United States using the original artificial food colors. The USFDA still claims they are safe, but consumer advocate groups disagree. In 2008 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to remove eight artificial colors from the nation's food supply: Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3 and Yellow 6. The CSPI maintains that all artificial colors should be avoided and that eliminating them from the food supply is the most effective public health approach.

"These artificial food colorings are not even necessary and are harmful particularly for our children," said organic chemist and Center founder Dee McCaffrey, CDC. She adds, "there are several ways to create food coloring naturally, and if the industry can't self-police itself to not poison our citizens, the FDA needs to step in."

The public can submit their arguments to this Committee until March 23rd, 2011 or can request to make a presentation on March 30th and 31st. Information about how to participate is found here. To sign the Center's petition against these and other harmful additives, click here.

Boost Your Mood With Food PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Monday, February 07, 2011

Recently a client inquired about nutritional options for her 16-year old daughter who is currently taking drugs to relieve depression.  "The drugs alter my feelings," her daughter cried, "I don't want to take them anymore."

Increasingly, people are asking for alternatives to help restore their emotional well-being than simply relying on drugs. And while medication can be life saving when depression is severe, it doesn't cure the underlying causes and is rarely a long-term solution. Not only do antidepressants come with significant side effects and dangers, but recent studies have also raised questions about their effectiveness.  Research shows that antidepressants fall short for many people. A major government study released in 2006 showed that fewer than 50 percent of people become symptom-free on antidepressants, even after trying two different medications. Furthermore, many who do respond to medication slip back into major depression within a short while, despite sticking with drug treatment.

Scientific research has proven a more effective and powerful solution: the healing power of food.  Studies show that the same brain chemicals that are altered by antidepressant drugs are also affected by the foods we eat. The best way to keep these brain chemicals in the right balance is by eating a balanced diet of natural whole foods. 

There are many foods that have been found to contain antidepressant-like qualities due to their composition. These anti-depressant foods contain one or more of the following compounds:

  • Uridine
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Folic Acid
  • B Vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Tryptophan

Uridine is found in a variety of foods that are high in ribonucleic acid, also known as RNA, most notably whole sugar cane and the molasses made from sugar cane, tomatoes and brewer's yeast.  Uridine influences levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine: two important brain chemicals that regulate your mood and behavior.  Other foods high in RNA and uridine are sugar beets and the molasses made from them, broccoli and organ meats such as liver.

Foods containing essential omega-3 fatty acids have long been known to correct mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disease.  A study published June 15, 2010 in the online Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, presented findings from the largest study ever conducted to assess the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of major depression.  The research, conducted at Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier at the University de Montreal (CRCHUM) Department of Psychiatry, revealed that the use of omega-3 supplements is effective among patients with major depression who do not also have anxiety disorders.  Efficacy for these patients was comparable to that generally observed with conventional antidepressant treatment.

Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids are cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.  Plant sources are flax seeds and flax seed oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and hemp seed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and a dark green leafy vegetable called purslane.  It is very difficult to get an adequate amount of omega-3 from just eating seeds or fish.  Therefore, purified fish oil supplements and flax oil supplements are one of the best ways to obtain high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.

A 2005 study conducted at Harvard affiliated McLean Hospital found that a diet combining omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil supplements) with foods containing uridine reduced the symptoms of depression as well as or better than three different antidepressant drugs that were tested. The study assessed use of omega-3 for eight weeks, at doses of 1050 mg of EPA and 150 mg of DHA each day. EPA and DHA are the two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.  It is currently unknown whether taking higher doses or taking supplements over a longer period would yield different results.

Eating raw chocolate, also known as cacao, has tangible benefits for fighting mood disorders.  Cacao contains a compound called opioids.  Opioids are compounds, such as those found in opium, that produce a feeling of well-being (euphoria).  A 2007 study from the University of Michigan found that eating chocolate releases the neurotransmitter beta-endorphin in the hypothalamus, which leads to the formation of opiates.  It is likely that the endorphins and opioids in chocolate help to make people feel more relaxed.

One caveat here, if you're an emotional eater with an affinity for chocolate to soothe yourself, the study's author found that for some people, eating chocolate may make their depression worse. It all depends on the attitude of the person eating the chocolate. For the some people, the anticipation of enjoying the chocolate and the pleasure in eating it, "seems to stimulate the dopamine system in the brain, and provides an enjoyable experience," he said.

"But the emotional eaters, people who eat chocolate to relieve boredom, stress or clinical depression, are looking for an opioid effect to improve their mood," and, sadly, for many this doesn't work.  At best, the chocolate only provides temporary relief, he said. But this is quickly followed by a return to or even a worsening of their earlier negative state. Why the chocolate high is so short lived and insufficient to sustain mood in those who eat it for emotional reasons remains unknown.

So if chocolate works for you, enjoy it! In moderation of course, and be sure that the chocolate has a high cacao content (80% or higher) and very low sugar content.

Many other common foods have natural compounds in them that act as precursors for the production of serotonin.  Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is a well-known contributor to feelings of well-being; therefore it is also known as a "happiness hormone" despite the fact that it is not actually a hormone. In addition to being a mood regulator, serotonin also contributes to the regulation of appetite, sleep and muscle contractions.

Serotonin cannot be produced in the body without tryptophan: a compound that is present in many foods.  Some of the widely used antidepressant foods with their important compounds are listed below:

  • Bananas have amazing nutrients that have been scientifically proven to help with depression.  They contain tryptophan and phenylalanine, which are essential for the brain to produce serotonin and dopamine transmitters that stimulate physical and mental activity and act as natural antidepressants. Dates, almonds, peanuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan.
  • Walnuts contain both omega-3 fatty acids and uridine.
  • Chicken and Turkey contain tryptophan and vitamin B6 that act as precursors to serotonin and other amino acids. They also contain selenium, which helps in the formation of neurotransmitters.
  • Cheddar or Swiss cheese also contain tryptophan.
  • Spinach contains folic acid, which helps in maintaining the physical and mental health to produce optimum levels of serotonin.
  • Kiwi and Citrus fruits contain vitamin C, which helps to produce dopamine, an important neurotransmitter.
  • Brown rice contains vitamins B1, B3, and folic acid. The B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They cannot be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them. B vitamins are destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people may be deficient in these.
  • Whole-grain oats also contain folic acid, pantothenic acid and vitamins B1 and B6.
  • Other whole grains such as kamut, spelt and quinoa are also excellent choices for delivering brain-boosting nutrients. Also, the carbohydrates in popcorn help in the production of serotonin in your brain.
  • Water has natural hydrating properties, which help in flushing out toxins from your body and maintaining a chemical balance throughout your body and your brain.

As a nutrition educator and diet counselor, I keep emphasizing the power of food and proper diet. Understanding and using food's tremendous power puts you in the position to create your own antidepressant prescription. You may feel skeptical, but those who have been willing to give it an honest try, have found the improvements in their well-being astounding and remarkable, and with no adverse side effects! Eating whole natural food is truly the only long-term solution for overall health.

Six Keys to a Healthier 2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Monday, January 03, 2011

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. -Hal Borland

At the beginning of each New Year, it's tempting to make resolutions, to swear off ingrained habits and to promise ourselves that we will reform once and for all.  But if you are resolving to change your lifestyle and lose weight, you should know what that really entails. Learning to live a healthier life requires commitment, time, and patience. It took me 13 months to release 100 excess pounds.  Along the way I worked hard to free myself from a lifetime of emotional food attachments, to identify and work through my weaknesses and reverse the effects of poor health.

My experience revealed a more rewarding and satisfying way of approaching change is to think of it as a process, not a resolution.  I have found that the process of changing a lifestyle is vastly more interesting and important than reaching the main goal - in other words, it's the journey that changes us, not the destination. 

There are six factors that will help you in your process so that you can achieve your health goals in 2011:

1.  Willingness:  It all starts with a willingness to change and an ability to keep your mind open to trying new things. My definition of willingness is "having the capacity to say 'yes' to doing something different". The development of more and more willingness to stay changed is a lifetime process.  It's what keeps us from falling back into our old unhealthy patterns and allows us to remain teachable. 

A great example of continued willingness is my Brussels sprouts story.  From an early age, I never liked Brussels sprouts.  When I started eating more vegetables and trying new ones, every time I tried to eat Brussels sprouts I just didn't like them.  Years went by and I just couldn't bring myself to eat what I learned were one of the healthiest vegetables in the world.  One day I was in the grocery store and the Brussels sprouts seemed to be calling my name.  They actually looked appealing!  Knowing that my husband loves the small, leafy green buds, I bought them and went home with a plan for how to prepare them.

Once they were cooked, I decided to try them again myself.  To my surprise, they were the most delicious vegetables I had ever eaten! After 40 years of Brussels sprouts aversion, they are now one of my favorite vegetable treats.  My continued willingness to try something different has paid off in many areas of my life. Is there anything you've been unwilling to try that could potentially change your life?

2.  Commitment: My favorite quote is from an unknown author who wrote "And the day came when the desire to remain the same was more painful than the risk to grow". If you want to get healthy, you must have a strong desire to change.  You have to become more committed to your change than you are to staying the same.  That means that you have to stick with your process, even if results are slow, and even if you stray from it temporarily.

Imagine leaving your house to go out for a walk.  You get three blocks away from home and you trip on a crack in the sidewalk and fall to the ground.  What will you do?  Will you stay down for years and blame to crack in the sidewalk for your slip?  Will you get up and go all the way back home and start your walk over, negating the three blocks of progress you have already made? Or, will you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue on your committed path with the understanding that "slips happen" and it is your healthy response to those slips that empower you to continue on from where you are?

I recommend the latter.  It this healthy form of "never-start-over" commitment that has allowed me to keep my weight off for nearly two decades.  I have had my share of "slips", but I have never allowed them to completely derail me from my commitment, and neither should you.

3.  Priority:  Making wellness a priority means that your health is as important as brushing your teeth or taking a shower.  This means taking the time required to ensure that the changes you make become a working part of your life.  I have never heard anyone say that they had to stop brushing their teeth every day or stop taking showers because they just didn't have the time - they just couldn't fit it in to their daily schedule! 

When an alcoholic wants to stop drinking, he or she makes sobriety the number one priority in their life.  They become willing to go to any length necessary to ensure that they do not take that drink. When working toward a college degree, school and homework take priority over other activities.  The same goes for getting healthy and losing weight.  Making health a priority means that you must consciously and purposefully take action each and every day. You can't just "resolve to" or "intend to" change. You need to make it a priority every single day.

You need to set aside time each day to focus on what you need to do to be healthy.  If you do this, I guarantee that you will be successful.  Putting forth the time and the energy to make yourself a priority is an act of self-love.  By doing it you're telling yourself that you're important and that you deserve to be healthy.

4.  Activity:  The healthiest people in history moved their bodies nearly every day of their lives.  Moving your body is half the battle to changing your health, but without a change in metabolism, your body will remain in a state of imbalance. Some of the best advice I received when I was first starting out on my health journey was to "go slow". If you have been sedentary for a long period of time, you will want to start out slow and go only a short distance. 

When I was 100 pounds overweight and in the depths of poor health, walking became my mode of transportation on the road to healthy living.  I started with slow and short walks, and worked my way up to brisk aerobic 60-minute walks.  Whatever type of activity you choose, make it a priority in your life.  Use exercise time as a tool to strengthen your commitment to yourself.  Activity will not only make you feel better physically, it will nourish you and give you the energy to change and reshape your life.

5.  Personal Growth:  There will no doubt be times when life gets challenging and you slip into old behaviors.  You may come up against obstacles that have sabotaged you in the past.  Those times require more willingness and commitment.  Awareness and understanding of your motivations, developing a new relationship with food and activity, and improving your inner life is essential to staying with your process.

Journaling is an invaluable tool that has greatly enhanced my personal growth.  It is a powerful tool that can allow you to access feelings that you may not always be aware of until you start writing about them.  The practice of writing in a journal on a regular basis helps you to see patterns in your behaviors and thinking.  Writing also strengthens and trains your mind to look for your motivations for wanting to engage in unhealthy eating or life choices.

6.  Support: Making the decision to live healthier is a significant life change that is hardly ever successfully done alone, nor does it have to be.  Surround yourself with positive supportive people who are genuinely interested in seeing you succeed.

Support is crucial, because it helps you to cultivate a belief in yourself and connects you to others in ways that you may not find in your other relationships.  The ability to ask for help is a spiritual practice that strengthens you, rather than weakens you, in your moments of self-sabotage or when outside temptations seem powerful.

From the first day of my journey, I knew that I needed others to help me stay committed to my new healthy lifestyle.  I can honestly say, that since that day I have never been without a supporting friend or mentor to help me stay committed. Being supported is a way to remind yourself of your goals, even when you lose sight of them.

For this reason, I established the Processed-Free Support Groups.  These groups have sprouted up in cities all over the country during 2010, and are now in place and ready to support you in 2011.  To find a group in your area, click here.

I want to be frank with you: the challenge of lifestyle changes and permanent weight loss IS difficult.  It may be one of the most difficult things you ever do in your life.  But it will also be the most beautiful experience you will have.  For you will learn to live according to an understanding that the results and the rewards far outweigh any difficulties you may have to endure.  The difficult times are only temporary, while the final result will last a lifetime.

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Nutritional Advice That Made Sense JohnBogumill

Within eight weeks I went from 215 to 180 pounds. I know that this is a plan for life - and, it is a very good life.Read More


Her Plan Made So Much Sense Kathy Kopack
As a certified personal trainer, I found it embarrassing that I could not lose those extra pounds of middle-age fat.


I Rave About This Plan ColleenPolitiAFTERsmall

I was referred to Dee for treatment of my arthritis by a doctor whose arthritis was helped from following Dee's Plan. *Everyone is unique, so results may vary.Read More


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