Organic Produce Under Attack

August 20, 2009

Seattle Farmers MarketA recent review by the UK Foods Standards Agency came out claiming that organic foods are no better than the less expensive conventionally grown foods.   A closer look at that review reveals some truths underlying the growing media attention and debate over whether or not organic foods are worth the extra buck. I am re-printing an excellent post on this topic  by Tom Philpott who farms and cooks at Maverick Farms, a sustainable-agriculture nonprofit and small farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

One of the key messages I received while researching this topic is that organic foods consistently contain a higher level of tertiary, phytochemicals then conventionally grown foods. These phytochemicals (e.g. resveratrol, chlorophyll, glucosinolates) hold as much, if not more promise for preventing and treating disease then the basic nutritional compounds that are used to test the benefit of one food over another.

In health,

Dr. Gina

A bit of nitrogen with those veggies?

Tom Philpott

A recent literature review by the U.K. Food Standards Agency concluded that organic foods offer no nutritional advantages to ones grown with conventional chemical agriculture.   The report quickly bounced around the media and the internet and has congealed into received wisdom. For example, in a recent chat with readers, Washington Post food politics columnist (and general policy writer) Ezra Klein engaged in the following exchange:

Santa Fe, N.M.: I saw a report today on a study finding that organic food isn’t any healthier than conventional food. Is buying organic a waste of money, in your opinion? Read the rest of this entry »


The Potential of Resveratrol-is it Worth Adding to your Health Regimen?

August 20, 2009

grapeResveratrol is a naturally occurring chemical found in the skins and seeds of red grapes, peanuts and in Polygonum, a popular and well respected herbal medicine from the Far East.  Currently, the research on Resveratrol is promising as a protective chemical against the damaging effects of toxins, synthetic estrogen and xenoestrogens, inflammation, and the process of aging.  It has specific actions on the brain, immune system, and heart.

In my practice I will use between 200 and 500 mg per day of Resveratrol as part of a treatment protocol. This typically is added to a protocol after a patient has been tested to determine if he or she has a deficiency of antioxidants or an imbalance of free radicals relative to antioxidants in the body.  All too often patients come into my practice with a huge bag of supplements, with no idea of what is working, what is not working and still battling the same symptoms that led him or her down the path of supplementation.

You know your body better then anyone else… you have been living in it your entire life!  You may have a sense of what is causing your symptoms and you also may have a sense for what medicines are helping or harming you.  To help confirm that sense, and develop a balanced approach to solving your health challenge, I encourage getting lab testing completed through a qualified Naturopathic Medical Doctor who has access and has experience with taking objective measured to get to an underlying biochemical cause for your symptoms.  And at that point, adding a powerful antioxidant such as Resveratrol to your protocol, and then re-testing after 3-6 months, this will let you know for certain if what you are taking is actually helping to balance your body!

In health,

Dr. Gina


Teenage Stress leads to Adult Health Challenges

April 2, 2009

Teenage Problems, Social Issues and BullyingA new study done by researchers at my alma mater, UCLA , further confirms the connection between stress and inflammation.  In this study researchers found that stress during the teen-aged years leads to silent inflammation as an adult, which then increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.  I will also add that it increases the risk of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders and a condition called Sickness Syndrome that is best treated with Naturopathic Medicine.

You can take a free assessment on-line to see if the depression, anxiety, sleep disorders or weight gain you are experiencing is due to this syndrome by clicking here:

The foundation protocol that I use to support the health of patients who have Sickness Syndrome can be found here:

For more information about the condition click here.

It is amazing to watch as people pull out of depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, weight disorders and severe mental health challenges without the use of prescription medications (in fact I often have to work with their prescribing doctors to taper them off the medications so that their body and mind can get to a balance point, and benefit from the natural medicines).  Naturopathic Medicine works so well!  I am always amazed by the the body’s ability to heal itself when you give it what it needs, and remove the barriers to cure (e.g. stress, drugs, food allergies, hormonal imbalances, structural imbalances, toxicities, digestive imbalances).

Dr. G


First of PBS Series Airs April 8, 2009 on KOCE

March 30, 2009

The first of seven Naturopathic Medicine segments will air on KOCE on April 08, 2009 in southern California.  Healthy dietTune in for valuable information from licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctors and their patients.

It is sure to be an educational and inspiring seven part series where you can gain a greater understanding for the power of Naturopathic Medicine, practiced by licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctors. If you would like to learn more about the difference between licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctors and natural health practitioners that are not licensed to practice medicine in California click here.

For more information on the PBS Special click on this previous blog post.

In health,

Dr. G


Affordable, Healthy Foods

August 5, 2008

As food prices climb, and the health of our nation, and our nation’s children, disintegrates, we have the opportunity to return to a simpler, more healthful diet. Here are 10 suggestions to get you started:

1. Oats
High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, oats have also been shown to lower cholesterol. And they sure are cheap—a dollar will buy you more than a week’s worth of hearty breakfasts.

2. Organic Eggs
You can get about a half dozen of eggs for a dollar, and organic eggs for a dollar fifty, making them one of the cheapest and most versatile sources of protein. They are also a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may ward off age-related eye problems.

3. Kale
This dark, leafy green is loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, and calcium. Like most greens, it is usually a dollar a bunch.

4. Potatoes
Because we often see potatoes at their unhealthiest—as fries or chips—we don’t think of them as nutritious, but they definitely are. Eaten with the skin on, potatoes contain almost half a day’s worth of Vitamin C, and are a good source of potassium. If you opt for sweet potatoes or yams, you’ll also get a good wallop of beta carotene. Plus, they’re dirt cheap and have almost endless culinary possibilities.

5. Nuts
Though nuts have a high fat content, they’re packed with the good-for-you fats—unsaturated and monounsaturated. They’re also good sources of essential fatty acids, Vitamin E, and protein. And because they’re so nutrient-dense, you only need to eat a little to get the nutritional benefits. Although some nuts, like pecans and macadamias, can be costly, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds, especially when bought in the shell, are low in cost.

6. Bananas
At a local Trader Joe’s, I found bananas for about 19¢ apiece; a dollar gets you a banana a day for the workweek. High in potassium and fiber (9 grams for one), bananas are a no-brainer when it comes to eating your five a day quotient of fruits and veggies.

7. Garbanzo Beans
With beans, you’re getting your money’s worth and then some. Not only are they a great source of protein and fiber, but ’bonzos are also high in fiber, iron, folate, and manganese, and may help reduce cholesterol levels. And if you don’t like one type, try another—black, lima, lentils … the varieties are endless. Though they require soaking and cooking, the most inexpensive way to purchase these beans is in dried form; a precooked can will still only run you around a buck.

8. Broccoli
Broccoli contains tons of nice nutrients—calcium, vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, and fiber. As if that isn’t enough, broccoli is also packed with phytonutrients, compounds that may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Plus, it’s low in calories and cost.

9. Pumpkin Seeds
When it’s time to carve your pumpkin this October, don’t shovel those seeds into the trash—they’re a goldmine of magnesium, protein, and trace minerals. Plus, they come free with the purchase of a pumpkin.

10. Butternut Squash
This beautiful gourd swings both ways: sometimes savory, sometimes sweet. However you prepare the butternut, it will not only add color and texture, but also five grams of fiber per half cup and chunks and chunks of Vitamin A and C. When in season, butternut squash and related gourds are usually less than a dollar a pound.

Adapted from this original post on Divine Caroline

-Dr. Gina


Study Finds that 89 Percent of Children’s Food Products Cause Harm to their Health

July 17, 2008

Nutrition is the cornerstone of good health. We eat at least three times per day-making nutrition one of the most important parts of our lifestyle. If you have a poor diet, it impacts your entire day and night. And if you have a healthy diet it also impacts your entire day and night.  It is a sorry state of affairs when analysis of foods for children reveals that 70 percent of children’s food products are too high in sugar- one of the most damaging ingredients to the human body, and 23 percent are high in fat.  Given that the incidence of obesity and heart disease is on the rise in the younger generation, it is time that parents wake up and take action.  When you feed your children unhealthy foods, high in sugar and fat, and don’t find ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their diet, you are impacting the quality of their entire life.  The nutritional status of a child affects his/her immune function, mental function and overall health and well-being throughout life.  And while children may not show any symptoms of ill-health while eating a poor diet, significant harm is occurring internally, which, over time, will manifest as disease.  The sickest adults I treat in my practice inevitably grew up with a poor diet. And the healthiest grew up with a parent or parents that ensured that they had the proper levels of nutrients in their diet and low levels of harmful ingredients like refined sugar and fried foods.

Ignoring the nutrient needs of a child is a form of abuse with the consequences showing up much later in life.  And providing proper nutrition does not have to be a financial burden.  Here are some basic tips:

-Do not buy foods that have refined sugar or any hydrogenated fats.  Save money by staying away from packaged cereals, crackers and chips that are marketed to children. You are paying for the packaging and marketing while the quality of the foods inside is usually poor.

-Stay away from fast food.

-Make nutrition a priority in your household.

-Start an organic garden and get your children involved in the process. They will be more likely to eat and enjoy the produce that they had a hand in creating!

The reward for this effort? Calmer, more peaceful and healthier children.

Dr. Gina

ScienceDaily (July 15, 2008) — Most kids’ foods provide poor nutritional quality, but packaging claims and healthy images could be misleading parents, according to a Canadian study. Professor Charlene Elliott used US guidelines to review 367 products. 70 percent of the products had higher than recommended sugar levels, 23 percent had high fat levels and 17 percent had high salt levels.
Nine out of ten regular food items aimed specifically at children have a poor nutritional content — because of high levels of sugar, fat or sodium – according to a detailed study of 367 products published in the July issue of the UK-based journal Obesity Reviews.

Just under 70 per cent of the products studied – which specifically excluded confectionery, soft drinks and bakery items – derived a high proportion of calories from sugar. Approximately one in five (23 per cent) had high fat levels and 17 per cent had high sodium levels. Despite this, 62 per cent of the foods with poor nutritional quality (PNQ) made positive claims about their nutritional value on the front of the packet.

“Children’s foods can now be found in virtually every section of the supermarket and are available for every eating experience” says Professor Charlene Elliott from the University of Calgary, Canada, and a Trustee of the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition.

“Parents may have questions about which packaged foods are good for their children. Yet certain nutritional claims may add to the confusion, as they can mislead people into thinking the whole product is nutritious.”

Only 11 per cent of the products Professor Elliott and her colleagues evaluated provided good nutritional value in line with the criteria laid down by the US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit agency that received the Food and Drug Administration’s highest honour in 2007.

The CSPI nutritional standards state that healthy food should not derive more than 35 per cent of its calories from fat (excluding nuts and seed and nut butters) and should have no more than 35 per cent added sugar by weight. They also provide guidance on sodium levels, ranging from 230mg per portion for snacks through to 770mg per portion for pre-prepared meals.
CSPI’s standards are adapted from those developed by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, a coalition of some 300 health and nutrition organisations in the USA. The organisation states that its standards represent a compromise approach. They allow for the marketing of products that may not be nutritionally ideal, but that provide some positive nutritional benefits that could help children meet the US Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The 367 products included in the study were bought from a national supermarket chain stocking 50,000 food and non-food items in December 2005. Each had to meet very specific criteria.

“We included food products and packaging that were presented in such a way that children were the clear target audience” explains Professor Elliott, whose research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “They included products that promoted fun and play, had a cartoon image on the front of the box or were linked to children’s films, TV programmes and merchandise.”

Each product was subjected to a 36-point analysis that included the nutritional content and how the packaging was designed to appeal to children and their parents.

Key findings included:

  • 63 per cent of all the products surveyed made some sort of nutritional claim, including 62 per of the products that could be classed as poorly nutritious, due to high levels of sugar or fat or sodium. A low percentage (eight per cent) carried some kind of nutrition mark or seal. Other claims included that products were low fat, a source of calcium, contained no artificial flavours or colours or provided a number of essential nutrients.
  • Products with high sugar levels accounted for 70 per cent of the goods with PNQ. Despite this, 68 per cent included some sort of nutritional claim on the package, such as a source of whole grains, source of iron or low in fat. Cereals and fruit snacks were particularly likely to make nutritional claims and have high levels of sugar.
  • Just under 23 per cent of the products had PNQ because of their high fat content. Yet 37 per cent had some sort of nutritional claim on the package. For example peanut butter mixed with chocolate claimed to be a “source of six essential nutrients” and a pizza product claimed to be a “source of calcium”.
  • High sodium levels meant that 17 per cent of the products analysed were classified as being of PNQ. Despite this, almost 34 per cent made some sort of nutritional claim on the package. Crackers and pizza products were among the worst offenders.
  • A fifth of the products featured a cartoon image engaged in some sort of healthy physical activity on the front and a quarter showed these on the back or side of the box. Activities included skateboarding, basketball and biking.

“Assessing the levels of sugar in the selected food products was a methodological challenge, because milk sugars and fruit sugars occur naturally in foods” says Professor Elliott. “The Nutrition Facts label only displays total sugars and the quantity of added sugars is not always provided by the manufacturer.

“This means that the percentage of foods categorised as poorly nutritious due to high levels of sugar is higher than it would have been if information on naturally occurring sugars had been available.”

The problem of accurately separating figures for quantities of natural and added sugars in manufactured products has also been encountered by other researchers and acknowledged as an issue by CSPI, so it is not unique to this study.
“Despite this, the findings still give us cause for concern” says Professor Elliott. “While caregivers are likely to purchase products that they hope their children will like, it clearly can result in a less nutritious diet than they may realise. Having a healthy diet is especially important given the current rates of childhood obesity.”

Excess body weight affects up to 35 per cent of children across Canada, the United States a
nd Europe and is linked to a range of health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some forms of cancer. Overweight children can also suffer from psychological and social consequences because of their weight.

Professor Elliott believes that policy attention needs to be directed towards the nutritional claims made by products aimed at children and the images they use to sell the products.

“If a parent sees a product that makes specific nutritional claims, they may assume that the whole product is nutritious and our study has shown that that is definitely not true in the vast majority of cases” concludes Professor Elliott. “Using cartoon characters engaged in sport can also create the illusion of a healthy product.”


Journal reference:

  1. Elliott et al. Assessing ‘fun foods’: nutritional content and analysis of supermarket foods targeted at children. Obesity Reviews, 2008; 9 (4): 368 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2007.00418.x

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