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    Archive for the ‘corn’ Category

    Q &A Roundup #2

    Another compilation of thoughtful questions courtesy of Small Bites readers. Enjoy!

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    cornAmericans consumed a total of 403 million pounds of corn oil in 1970.  By 2002, that figure reached 950 million pounds.

    FYI: Corn oil has an omega 6:omega 3 ratio of 46:1.  Yikes!

    Chances are, this figure continued to climb over the past eight years, especially as plant oils took over for trans fats in shelf-stable snacks.

    As much as the “limit saturated fats” message is constantly drilled into us, statistics show that over the past thirty years, saturated fat intake has remained steady, while omega-6 intake has skyrocketed.

    Might as well change this country’s name to The United States of Corn.  Our cars guzzle it, our cattle chow it down, and the average American’s diet is so heavily processed, corn is its own food group!

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    crop05-6soybean0.2 percent of corn and soybeans grown in the United States are certified organic.

    The most ironic part?  The people consuming most of these genetically modified byproducts (mainly corn oil, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and soy protein isolate) aren’t even aware they are eating them.

    Soybean consumption is not limited to vegetarians!  Most fast-food hamburger buns contain some sort of soy byproduct, and most fast-food french fries are cooked in soybean oil (or a combination oil that includes soybeans).

    Whole, organic corn and soybeans are not the issue.  After all, it is certainly possible to buy bags of frozen organic sweet kernel corn as well as organic canned soybeans (or organic edamame).

    Processed byproducts are the true red-flag-raisers.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Corn, The Vegetable

    Corn on the cobI have watched Food Inc. and other films and books that constantly refer to the consequences of eating too much corn.

    Corn takes on many different identities, most of which have been given a bad rep.  It is either being wrongly fed to animals or causing nutritional problems in society.

    its natural form (like corn on the cob), does corn have any nutritional value?

    — Maggie Peurrung
    (Location Unknown)

    Absolutely.

    The nutritional villains you refer to are the byproducts of corn.

    High-fructose corn syrup, like all other sugars, provides calories that don’t satiate.  In other words, it is completely feasible to down 400 calories of high-fructose corn syrup (ie: a large soda at 7-11) in a few minutes and still feel as hungry as we did before we took the first sip.

    Corn oil, meanwhile, is extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids.

    Unprocessed corn (i.e.: corn on the cob) is a different story.  Remember, corn by-products are relatively new ingredients.  Whole corn, meanwhile, has been consumed around the world for thousands of years.

    A cup of cooked corn (or one large ear, in barbecue terms) provides 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, 20 percent of the daily requirement for folate, as much potassium as a medium banana, and 15 percent of our phosphorus and magnesium needs.

    The combination of folate, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium make corn a great defender against heart disease and high blood pressure.

    Phosphorus, meanwhile, is the behind-the-scenes player helping our kidneys get rid of waste and is also necessary to keep our nervous system in check and running.

    The healthiest way to eat corn is grilled or popped. Yes, popcorn (especially in an air popper) is a Small Bites-approved snack. Spice it up with some salt-free chili powder, cinnamon, or nutritional yeast for a heart-healthy, fiber-rich pick-me-up.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Corn Processed with Lime

    tacoshell

    When the ingredients on taco shells says corn processed with lime is it considered a whole grain or not?

    — Peggy Martin
    (Location Withheld)

    While popcorn is a whole grain, not all corn flours are.

    If the ingredient list does not specifically mention the presence of “whole grain corn”, you are not looking at a whole grain product.

    Corn is actually processed with lime to boost its calcium levels.

    Since lime-cooked corn contains lower levels of phytic acid than conventionally-cooked varieties, its calcium is much more absorbable. it also makes its iron much more absorbable.

    These discoveries came to light when nutrition researchers couldn’t explain why certain populations of native Mexicans did not have low iron blood levels despite a diet high in corn.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Food Pyramid

    Do corn and potatoes fall into the “grains” or “vegetable” category in the food pyramid?

    — Tom O’Farrell
    Boston, MA

    As far as the United States Department of Agriculture is concerned, potatoes and corn are members of the vegetable group.

    Remember, the food pyramid categorizes foods by nutrient profile.

    Although corn and potatoes are higher in carbohydrates than other vegetables, their vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content is more similar to that of vegetables than grains (we are talking about corn-on-the-cob and baked potatoes here, not Fritos and Pringles!)

    I understand the USDA’s decision from a simplicity standpoint, but it is not completely accurate in the case of corn, which is both a vegetable AND a grain, depending on how it is harvested.

    Although most people associate corn with processed junk (where it either shows up as high fructose corn syrup or corn oil in ingredient lists), it offers a good amount of nutrition when eaten fresh (off the cob) or simply popped and sprinkled with a little salt, parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast for flavoring.

    For what it’s worth, a large ear of corn contributes 127 calories — along with vitamin C, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, and most of the B vitamins — to your day.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Food Allergies

    I have been feeling sluggish and bloated for almost 6 weeks now.

    One of my friends thinks it is probably a food allergy, either corn, wheat, or soy.

    Do you agree?

    — (Name withheld)
    (Location withheld)

    Not really.

    Let’s first begin with some basic definitions.

    A food allergy means your body is developing antibodies in response to specific food proteins.

    This is different from a food intolerance, which has to do with the body’s inability to break down certain substances, often resulting in gastrointestinal distress.

    While wheat and soy allergies are common, corn allergies are not.

    Additionally, corn allergies trigger symptoms like wheezing, sneezing, and swelling of the throat and face almost immediately. They go far beyond simply feeling “sluggish.”

    Keep in mind, too, that feeling sluggish and bloated are not necessarily allergic reactions.

    Feeling sluggish can be a result of many other things — stress, iron-deficiency anemia, not consuming sufficient calories, etc.

    It concerns me that there is so much self-monitoring happening with allergies. To truly know what is going on, you need to see a specialist who has experience with food allergies.

    Otherwise, you run the risk of misdiagnosing or overlooking a more important issue.

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    In The News: Corn-utopia

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the ever increasing prices of corn farming have led farmers to project this year’s planting estimates at 86 million acres — eight percent less than last year’s figure.

    Corn prices have skyrocketed in recent years, helped by the burgeoning ethanol industry, which turns the crop into fuel, and rising world-wide demand for food. The higher prices have hurt poultry, beef and pork companies, who use corn to feed their animals.

    Here’s a thought — how about feeding these animals the foods they are meant to eat?

    In the case of cows, not only is a corn diet detrimental to their digestive systems, it also results in meat higher in saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids than that of cows subsisting exclusively on a grass diet.

    The repercussions also affect our wallets.

    Corn already is trading near its record-high price of $5.70 a bushel, more than double the price of two years ago.

    Meat and dairy prices will continue to rise.

    Additionally, since a large portion of this country’s food supply is based around corn oil and corn-based syrups, expect bread and convenience snacks to also take a hit.

    For more information on this very complex topic, I direct you to a highly informative 2002 interview with corn guru Michael Pollan.

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    In The News: Franken-Corn? No, Merci

    Two thumbs up to the French.

    On March 20,”the top court upheld, at least for the time being, a ban on a corn variety produced by the American seed company Monsanto.”

    Said variety is genetically modified, leading to fears by environmentalists and farmers that “the corn, which confers resistance to pests, could pollute other crops and pose a threat to the environment and human health.

    One prominent threat is gene transfer, also known as outcrossing.

    This entails genetically modified seeds “cross-breeding” with non-genetically-modified crops as a result of something as simple as pollen spreading due to wind or animals.

    Apart from the impact this has on the stability of flora in any given environment, unfortunate financial repercussions are felt by farmers.

    There are cases of farmers in Canada being sued by — and losing to — Monsanto after the company’s patented genetically modified rapeseed seeds blew over onto their property.

    The most famous case — Monsanto Canada v. Schmeiser — is excellently summarized by Wikipedia.

    Remember, Monsanto is the same agricultural biotechnology company that produces recombivant bovine growth hormone.

    Europe is generally less tolerant of genetically modified foods than the United States. In fact, milk containing rBGH is banned in the Old Continent.

    Let’s finish off this post with some humor.

    Here is a funny — but true! — tidbit from 2000 about a Monsanto cafeteria in British Columbia proudly advertising the absence of genetically modified soy and corn in their food.

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    In The News: All Corned Out

    The United States’ mind-blowing surplus of corn — largely encouraged by the government for ethanol production — was recently touched upon in this year’s superb documentary King Corn.

    Now, The New York Times’ Andrew Martin takes this issue one step further and reveals the latest crop battle: food vs. fuel.

    In fact, this might very well explain the reason behind the recent rising prices of everyday staples like milk, carrots, and broccoli.

    [Food manufacturers and livestock farmers] seethe at government mandates for ethanol production. The ethanol boom, they contend, is raising corn prices, driving up the cost of producing dairy products and meat, and causing farmers to plant so much corn as to crowd out other crops,” writes Martin.

    Certainly an eye-opening (and anger-inducing) read.

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    In The News: Rain, Taxes, Death…. and Contaminated Beef

    It’s time for another round of “ground beef recall“!

    You guessed it — E.Coli 0157:H7 has reared its ugly head once more.

    This, by the way, is the same strand that, back in 1993, caused the death of 4 children who consumed contaminated meat at fast food giant Jack in the Box.

    How do these outbreaks happen?

    It’s quite simply, really. Any healthy-looking cow can carry E.Coli in its intestinal tract.

    Once the animal is slaughtered and its meat is ground up, E. Coli germs intermingle with it and, voila, E.Coli-infested beef is shipped off to your local grocery store.

    To make matters more difficult, E.Coli-infested beef does not look, taste, or smell “funny”.

    This is why cooking beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is crucial (it kills any living organisms).

    Additionally, be sure to use separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables so as to not cross-contaminate your raw salad greens with any bacteria present in raw meat.

    Of course, on a much larger scale, if our food production system was better regulated and not hell-bent on accruing profits while jeopardizing cattle and human health, we wouldn’t be constantly facing these outbreaks.

    Not only are cows in feedlots practically living on top of one another (significantly increasing the spread of disease among a single population), they are also on a completely unnatural corn diet, which appears to increase their chances of contracting E.Coli 0157:H7 (the corn diet makes for a more acid stomach environment, which the E.Coli strain loves).

    I believe the personal is often the political. Our hard-earned dollars are an extremely powerful vote.

    If you choose to eat meat, purchasing local organic grass-fed beef (if within your price range) can help bring some peace of mind to your health and support more natural and sustainable practices.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Milk from Corn-Fed Cows

    What is the impact of Omega-6 fatty acid [from a cow’s diet] on [the milk it produces]?

    — Pauline Guzek
    Via the blog

    In a recent post , I explained that corn-fed cows’ meat contains higher levels of unhealthy fats than that of their counterparts who munch on grass all their lives.

    A similar concept occurs with milk, except this time around, as you’ll soon find out, corn-fed cows’ milk is LACKING an important nutrient.

    This is one of the main reasons why many people are starting to specifically look for commercial milk that comes from grassfed cows.

    Caution! Simply buying “organic” milk does not guarantee the cows that produce it have been subsisting on the green stuff all their life.

    Under the current organic guidelines by the United States Department of Agriculture, milk can be labeled ‘organic’ if the cows that produce it have “access to pasture.”

    Technically, the cows do not have to eat said pasture. So, a huge farm could potentially fatten up all its cows on corn and grains but let them spend an hour a day outside and legally label their milk as “organic.”

    Be sure to look for the words “grass-fed” on the container.

    The main draw of milk from grass-fed cows is a higher amount of a polyunsaturated fat known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA.)

    The current research on CLA is promising. Several studies have shown promising links between its consumption and cancer cell growth inhibition as well as lowering of triglyceride levels and even a boost in the immune system.

    Milk from corn-fed cows is not only lacking CLA, it is also the byproduct of a body that has taken in copious amounts of antibiotics and hormones.

    If it fits within your budget, I would recommend purchasing milk from grass-fed cows.

    In many countries, this is the only milk they know, as the notion of having cows eat corn and antibiotics all day seems not only bizarre, but also unhealthy. I completely agree.

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    King Corn: By The Numbers

    Continuing with my coverage of King Corn (which Entertainment Weekly stamped an absolutely worthy “A-” on), here are some mind-blowing figures presented in the d0cumentary:

    * The average farmer in Iowa owns 1,000 acres of crops (corn being the overwhelming majority).

    * Each acre of corn contains 31,000 kernels.

    * Each acre of corn produces 5 TONS of food.

    * With today’s modern technology, it takes just eighteen minutes to spray those 31,000 kernels with herbicides and pesticides.

    * By the way, these sprayers have a ninety foot span!

    * Thirty-two percent of the United States’ corn production is exported to other countries or used to make ethanol.

    * Approximately fifty percent is fed to livestock.

    * The remaining eighteen percent is used to make high fructose corn syrup, used in sodas, breads, cookies, and pastries.

    * Zero percent — that’s right, none — of industrialized corn can be eaten off the cob. Due to its genetically modified properties, commodity corn must first be processed before it can be consumed.

    * Sixty percent of cows’ diet in the United States consists of corn. The other forty percent? A variety of grains, including wheat.

    * Seventy percent of all antibiotics in the United States are consumed by cattle.

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    King Corn: Cows + Corn = Moooochos Problemas

    One of King Corn’s focus is the consequences of utilizing a large portion of the country’s corn surplus to feed livestock.

    Fifty years ago, cows in the United States, like others around the world, subsisted on a simple, natural diet of grass and hay.

    In the early 1970s, though, when farmers were instructed to produce as much food as possible — resulting in a tremendous surplus of corn — cows’ diets radically changed.

    Gone was grass, in was corn (often mixed in with grains also foreign to cows’ diets until that time).

    Livestock breeders couldn’t be happier about this change. On a corn diet, cows fatten up a lot quicker, especially when cruelly crowded in feedlots, literally unable to walk. In other words? More cow to sell in less time.

    From a cow’s standpoint, however, the glass isn’t so full.

    Cow’s digestive systems are unable to handle corn and grains. Consequently, after a year of said diet (after 12 months, most are then sent to slaughterhouses), many cows get sick.

    A sick cow, though, is useless to a breeder. So, as “insurance”, antibiotics are mixed into their food supply. It is believed that antibiotic residue in the food we eat is partly responsible for developing antibiotic resistance in our own bodies!

    Even with this precaution, many cows become sick to the point where their blood pH drops, often resulting in a life-threatening condition known as acidosis.

    In fact, corn is so harmful to cows that if they were to eat it continuously for 18 months, their systems would go into overload, resulting in death.

    According to King Corn, everyone who has eaten conventional beef in the United States over the past thirty years has eaten purely corn-fed meat.

    This is especially troubling considering that the fat ratio in the United States’ diet is completely imbalanced.

    Ideally, we want our Omega 6 (an essential fatty acid found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and plants) and Omega 3 (another essential fatty acid, found in walnuts, flax, salmon, tuna) ratio to be approximately 4 to 1. Current estimates place ratios anywhere from 15:1 to 20:1!

    What’s wrong with that? These disproportionate numbers greatly increase our risk of developing inflammatory diseases, including Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and degenerative joint disease.

    As if that weren’t bad enough, beef from corn-fed cows contains as much as five times more unhealthy saturated fat than that of grass-fed cattle!

    You can now see why having our food supply so saturated with corn — which provides Omega 6 fatty acids — is a problem.

    Consider a fast-food meal of a hamburger, fries, and soda.

    You are getting corn in your hamburger, both in the corn-fed beef and the bun (which contains high-fructose corn syrup).

    The fries? Very likely fried in corn oil (it’s the cheapest, and you know fast foot outlets are all about cutting costs and maximizing profit!)

    The soda? If it’s not diet, you’re getting your share of high-fructose corn syrup as well.

    Next time you’re at the supermarket, read the ingredient lists of the foods you place in your cart, keeping track of how many items contain high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, corn oil, corn gluten, hydrolyzed corn, etc.

    I have a feeling you’ll be surprised.

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    All About Corn

    King Corn opens in Manhattan today, and it’s one of my “Weekend To Do” items.

    I’ll post a review in a few days.

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