Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

All posts tagged Try It

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In today’s New England Journal of Medicine, a team of researchers reports that people who consume nuts more often are less likely to die of certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, and Type II diabetes.

Lest you think that this is another one of those small studies that has been over-interpreted, realize that the researchers studied over 118,000 people. They enrolled them in the study, followed their self-report food intake for years, and searched huge databases to track deaths of study participants.

The authors were careful to say that their study was observational and that they therefore can’t claim they’ve proved that nut consumption caused the reduced risk of death. But their conclusion was stated simply and clearly: “As compared with participants who did not eat nuts, those who consumed nuts seven or more times per week had a 20% lower death rate.”

They point out that some actual clinical trials conducted by other researchers show nut consumption does have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance, among other factors.

There’s a neat little three-minute animated explanation from the Massachusetts Medical Society that goes along with the study. You can see it by going here and clicking the Video icon named Nuts and Death.

Nuts are awesome! Pine nuts are slightly sweet and add a hint of flavor to rice or quinoa dishes. Walnuts can be ground up and mixed with eggs or tofu, along with spinach and onions, to make a delicious pate that makes a satisfying sandwich. Pecans are perfect for waldorf salad.  And that’s just the beginning! So treat yourself to some health and go for nuts.

Related links:
Best and Worst Nuts for Your Health
Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health – Mayo Clinic

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Actually, hundreds of thousands. This month, Israeli archeologists convened a conference called “The Origins of Recycling” to share their knowledge about the history of clever re-use. Dozens of scholars discussed findings that even before we were homo sapiens, we were reusing materials in Spain, North Africa, Italy, and Israel. A cave near Tel Aviv that was used by pre-humans two hundred thousand years ago (and more) yielded flint chips that had been turned into small blades.

Reporter Ariel David  writes, “A dry pond in Castel di Guido, near Rome, has yielded bone tools used some 300,000 years ago by Neanderthals who hunted or scavenged elephant carcasses there, said Giovanni Boschian, a geologist from the University of Pisa. ‘We find several levels of reuse and recycling,’ he said. ‘The bones were shattered to extract the marrow, then the fragments were shaped into tools, abandoned, and finally reworked to be used again.’”

This confirms findings reported a year ago. Middens (trash dumps) have been archeologists’ gold mines for decades, as they sort through the remains of past civilizations to discover how people lived. Meanwhile, Americans are throwing away not only food but also tons of other stuff. Don’t you wonder what future explorers will think about our landfills?

Forget the Paleo diet (It’s nonsense, anyway). Embrace your inner Paleo recycler!

Related links:
History of Recycling
Cavemen Recycled? Evidence Suggests Prehistoric Ancestors Repurposed Everyday Objects- Huffington Post


This Wednesday evening, October 2, an interesting event is taking place in Mountain View. The Silicon Valley Innovation Institute is hosting an evening called Perspectives on Innovations in Food (Consequences or Breakthrough?). As you can tell by the title, controversy will not be avoided. SVII has for some years brought together thought leaders on various topics, with the goal of generating creative solutions.

Panelists include Dr. Ed Bauman, a pioneer in the field of holistic nutrition for over 35 years; executive chef Alan Finkelstein; Kathryn Sucher, a recognized authority on how diet, health, and disease are affected by culture/ethnicity and religion; raw food chef Jillian Love; and myself as moderator.

I hope you can attend! This will be an interactive forum and your input is expressly solicited and welcomed.  As the even description says, “Although we seed the discussion with subject matter experts, the audience is also comprised of subject matter experts whose expertise lie in a larger range of topics. And it is within this cross fertilization of intelligent communication that innovation can often occur.”

Hangen Szechuan Restaurant (2nd Floor)

134 Castro St. Mountain View, CA 94041

Appetizers will be provided!  (Waiter service will also be available for menu items.)

Pre-Registration Tickets ($20)   Use code RIEBEL to get a discount.

More info at   Register at

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Did you know there are over 8,000 farmers’ markets in the U.S.? That’s according to the USDA  and that number represents over 3,000 new ones since 2008, when there were about 5,000. There are over 750 just in California – no surprise, really, since we have such great weather for growing — but New York is not far behind. You can search the directory here  and search by location, what they sell, and what kinds of payment are accepted.

That’s 8,000 reasons to have a week dedicated to the farmers who feed us.

In the East Bay, you can find farmers’ markets in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Rossmoor, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and two Kaiser locations – and that’s just within a ten-mile radius.

So grab your cloth bags, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and head out to the nearest market to get ready for the coming week.

To learn more about what groups are working to heal our food system, check out the following groups at their websites:

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,

Environmental Working Group,

National Farm-to-School Network,

National Young Farmers Coalition,

Sustainable Table,

and the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program.

A few months ago I wrote about edible food packaging, which, if it becomes feasible, would be one interesting way to tackle the astounding waste of natural resources (trees, petroleum, aluminum, energy) caused by food packaging. According to  As You Sow, an organization devoted to leading corporations toward sustainability, “At least 43 million tons of plastic, glass, metal, and paper packaging—much of it with market value—is landfilled or burned in the U.S. each year. Packaging waste is also the biggest component of ocean litter that harms marine life and pollutes our oceans.”





Before I get to today’s news, here are some things you can do right now about packaging waste, that I wrote about here:

✓ Buy products with the least packaging: Fresh, local, in season. Be willing to buy produce that is perfectly good, though it might not look perfect.

✓ Buy products in bulk or large containers, not tiny serving sizes.

✓ Use concentrates (juices, cleansers), which require less packaging.

✓ When buying a few small items, ask the clerk not to put them in a bag.

✓ Reuse and recycle the packaging you can’t avoid.

✓ Bring your own cloth bags. Many grocery and drug chains sell them, as do online retailers. Some stores give you a small rebate for bringing your own bags.

✓ Eat your package. Buy ice cream in cones, not plastic cups.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a new movement, complete with its own acronym, challenging manufacturers to create more earth-friendly products and to take responsibility for their remains after consumers (that’s you and me!) have used them. So far this mostly pertains to large appliances. In the food world, of course, recycling is the currently most usable technique.

And, of course, if you go for apples and bananas, you can always eat your packaging!

Tomato lovers rave about the lively, distinct taste of genuine fresh tomatoes, which they say is infinitely superior to the hard round red billiard balls you can get at the supermarket any time of year. I can’t vouch for this, not being a raw tomato fan, but there isn’t much debate that conventional tomatoes are hard and tasteless. Here’s what author Barry Estabook said in his 2011 book Tomatoland:

“Perhaps our taste buds are trying to send us a message. Today’s industrial tomatoes are as bereft of nutrition as they are of flavor. According to analyses conducted by the U.S. Department of Agricul­ture, 100 grams of fresh tomato today has 30 percent less Vitamin C, 30 percent less thiamin, 19 percent less niacin, and 62 percent less calcium than it did in the 1960s. But the modern tomato does shame its 1960s counterpart in one area: It contains fourteen times as much sodium.”

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re blessed to be near the Central Valley, one of the world’s great breadbaskets. We also have lots of small farms and urban farmers, so those juicy red tomatoes are not too hard to find here. Farmers’ markets can be found in Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Moraga, San Rafael – go here to find one near you. The newest one opened this week in Lafayette.

You can always GROW tomatoes, as they are very forgiving and brown-thumb-friendly. Even a single potted plant can, with minimal human intervention, provide those tasty red tomatoes that are so prized.