Don't ignore those gut feelings
It’s common for people to focus on their health at the start of the year. But few consider the well being of the microbes that live inside the human gut – the microbiome – which are vital to an individual’s good health.
How important are these bacteria? There are as many bacterial cells in us as there are human cells, and they help control everything from inflammation and the development and treatment of cancer to how much energy we get from our foods and perhaps even what foods we crave and our moods. When our microbiome becomes unbalanced, often indicated when certain species or groups of bacteria become overly abundant, these functions can be disrupted, contributing to the development of a wide range of diseases such as obesity, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and many others.
Our gut microbes are also responsible for gas production when we eat new foods as those microbes adapt to this new nutrient source in their environment. So it is clear we want to have a healthy microbiome, but what is that?
There is a lot of debate regarding what exactly constitutes a healthy community of gut microbes, but one thing has become clear. Humans need a diverse microbiome with a variety of bacterial species that can quickly adapt to the wide range of foods that we might want to consume while still performing all those important functions like preventing inflammation. So what are some things that you can do to support a healthy, diverse microbiome?
5. Eat your fruits and veggies
While all the different foods that make up your diet can influence the gut microbiome, it is the fiber – the carbohydrates in our diet that we cannot break down ourselves but the bacteria in our gut can use readily – that drives the formation of a healthy microbiome. Eating a diverse and abundant selection of fruits and veggies is a great way to feed some of the most health-promoting bacteria in our gut.
4. Add resistant starch
Most of the starch in our diet - like white bread and pasta - is quickly broken down and absorbed. But a fraction of that starch is resistant to digestion and acts more like a fiber, feeding the bacteria in our gut. Resistant starch has been identified as particularly beneficial for supporting all of those healthy functions of the gut microbiome.
Some sources of resistant starch include potatoes and legumes. All sources of starch can also become more resistant after cooking and then cooling in the fridge. So those leftover potatoes and pasta, cold or reheated, may have some added microbiome-promoting punch.
3. Experiment with different fibers
Not all gut microbiomes are the same and not all fibers are the same. Certain fibers and microbiomes will mix better than others, depending on what functions are present. This means that you need to do some experimentation to see what fibers will make you and your gut feel the best. You can do this with fiber supplements or with different categories of fiber sources such as whole grains, legumes or cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. Give your microbiome a couple of weeks to adjust to each fiber source to see how it responds.
2. Exercise for both you and your microbes
Regular physical activity is not only good for your heart, but it is also good for your gut, too. Studies recently showed that some of the lactate produced during exercise can impact certain gut microbes – although we don’t yet know how and why. Start slow if you haven’t had regular physical activity as part of your daily life. If you start on New Year’s, by Valentine’s Day you could be walking daily, or doing some time of activity that you like, to help your heart, mind and gut.
1. Add probiotic foods into your diet
What are probiotic foods? These are foods that contain microorganisms that have a health benefit. There are several different kinds of helpful microorganisms that are added to foods like yogurt or are naturally found in other fermented foods – like sauerkraut or kimchi – that give them a health-promoting effect. Give one of these foods a try in the new year. You might be wondering if probiotic supplementsare as beneficial as probiotic food. So far there isn’t enough evidence to say that – so stick with food.
Certain breakfast drinks can have a really negative impact on your health, especially for people over 50. As you grow older, it is best to watch out for these morning drinks to avoid unnecessary calories, sugar, and saturated fats, which can lead to wait gain and other health problems. Specifically, sugar and saturated fats have been linked to high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease (which already increases as you grow older).
To make it easier to decide what morning drinks to order, we spoke to experts about the drinks they recommend avoiding. Read on for the 4 morning drinks experts say no one over 50 should be ordering anymore.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Although a seasonal favorite, these pumpkin-flavored lattes are not the healthiest option for a morning drink. Lynell Ross, certified health & wellness coach, nutritionist, and founder of Zivadream, warns against drinking them: "A large pumpkin spice latte contains 470 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat, and 64 grams of sugar (the equivalent of 16 teaspoons)."
Citing these nutrition facts, Ross warns that the pumpkin spice latte is both bad for your heart and can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Ross also warns against ordering an iced frappuccino. She explains, "Every flavor (vanilla, chocolate or caramel) is loaded with sugar, saturated fat, and calories. Ingesting that much caffeine, calories, sugar, and saturated fat all at once puts stress on your pancreas and adrenal glands."
Staying away from iced frappuccinos is especially important as you grow older. Ross explains, "Middle aged people and seniors need to pay special attention to making sure they limit added sugar and saturated fat to keep their heart healthy and their weight down."
Although it might be tempting to turn to Pepsi for a morning caffeine fix, Ross also recommends steering clear of soda during your morning routine. As you grow older, this is especially important. Ross explains, "Soda can leach calcium out of your bones, a mineral people over 50 need to build up to avoid osteoporosis (bone loss)."
Plus, soda won't actually help you stay awake. Ross says, "Soda with real sugar will raise your blood sugar levels, then cause your blood sugar to crash, leaving you feeling lethargic."
Premade Fruit Smoothie
Premade fruit smoothies seem like a healthy option, but they are often surprisingly high in calories from sugar and fat. Instead, make your smoothie at home and pay special attention to your ingredients. Lisa Richards, nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet, explains her rules for homemade smoothies: "Replace inflammatory dairy products with coconut or almond milk and yogurts. Also, make sure you are measuring your fruit ingredients to prevent taking in more servings than necessary and thereby increasing the sugar content."
Source: She Finds
Have you ever bought a local carton of fresh strawberries in early June and marveled at just how delicious they are? A June strawberry is a thing to behold—its juices practically dripping down your chin, its deeply fragrant smell, and jewel-bright color.
There’s a reason, of course, why eating a strawberry goes from something mundane to an almost magical experience in late spring and early summer: peak season for many varieties of strawberries is from early June through early July in the United States (depending on where you live, of course).
In our modern world, no matter where we live across the United States, we tend to eat all manner of fresh produce year-round and think nothing of it. So we no longer think of food as seasonal. Our latte flavors, sure—but our food? But to our not-so-distant ancestors, finding a fresh strawberry in December would have been completely unimaginable.
The difference seasonal food makes
Even though our modern food system makes it possible to eat strawberries in the dead of winter (although they pale in comparison to June strawberries), there are benefits to eating with the local seasons that extend beyond taste. Eating foods at their seasonal peak is also better for our health, our wallets, and the environment, too.
Consider, for instance, that watermelons and tomatoes, which both have their peak season at the height of summer, are incredibly rich in lycopene—an antioxidant that absorbs both UVA and UVB radiation. One study found that eating foods rich in antioxidants like lycopene can be protective against sun-caused skin damage. In a remarkable way, the earth is producing the exact foods that will best serve us during the season when we are outside in the sun the most.
In-season fruits and vegetables may also be denser in nutritious elements like antioxidants than those grown outside of your local season, because they are often fresher than out-of-season produce. For example, the strawberry that you eat in December was probably grown in Mexico (or another place where strawberries are still in season), so they spend a lot more time “on the road” in the time between when they were picked and when they’re atop your morning bowl of yogurt and granola. So not only did that June strawberry taste better to you, it was probably better for you, too.
Which brings us to the environmental impact of eating out-of-season. Consider the carbon footprint of a bell pepper grown in-season (July through September) at your local farm compared to one grown out-of-season in South America; the potential impact on the environment of our season-less eating habits becomes pretty alarming. Sometimes costs reflect that: consider how cheap ears of corn are in the autumn—at my local grocery store at this time of year, the price can go as low as six ears for a dollar—compared to how much they’ll cost (if they can be found at all) several months from now.
Of course, getting fresh produce of any sort, in-season or out, can be a real challenge for far too many families in the United States. Food deserts (that is, parts of the country that have fewer grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables and more quickie marts with sugar and fat-laden foods) are a real problem, and I believe our first priority when it comes to food should be to feed our families with the most nutritionally-dense food we have available (and affordable) to us. But for those with a plethora of fresh food sources at our disposal, eating with the local seasons can be an excellent way to fuel our bodies, to ethically fuel our local economy, and to be good stewards of the environment.
After all, some of us wait all year for “Pumpkin Spice Latte Season” and would never consider asking our barista for one until we can do it while clad in a scarf and jeans. Knowing what we now do about how in-season food affects our bodies, wallet, and environment, perhaps we will one day await strawberry season with the same fervor.
Why You Crave The Foods You Do
It’s not just that your tummy is gurgling in your board meeting, it’s that you’re picturing a very specific chicken sandwich smothered in artichoke dip. Or maybe brownies and BBQ sauce-soaked ribs. Screw it, maybe you even have the urge to buy a can of whipped cream that you’ll devour straight from the nozzle.
These cravings happen to most all of us. They’re a normal part of life — and, sometimes, they’re a health signal from your body that something is up.
Evelyn Tribole — MS, RD, pioneer of the self-care eating model “intuitive eating” and coauthor of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works — explains that urges to eat specific food groups may be your body’s way of telling you about nutritional deficiencies. For example, if you’re craving carb-heavy treats or sweets like scones, you might not be getting enough to eat, she says.
But it’s not quite that simple. There’s also a psychological component to cravings. “Our biology and psychology are intricately wired together,” Tribole says. A 2010 review on the subject in Current Directions in Psychological Science noted that research suggests that mental imagery plays a factor, with one study finding that the strength of cravings has to do with how vividly you can imagine the food you have a hankering for.
Tribole herself says she doesn’t like to “pathologize” cravings, but rather encourages people to get curious about why they’re happening. “When you feel a craving, ask yourself: What am I feeling and what do I need?” Tribole suggests. Then you can take that information and respond by listening to your body, often times by indulging the craving to satisfy your body's needs.
If your food cravings are impacting your life in a negative way, you might want to talk to a nutritionist or doctor about them. But if you’re just curious about cravings, we asked nutritionists about some common causes, from dehydration to dieting.
For most people, cravings tend to be tied to heartier foods. "I’ve never run into a patient who’s told me: I can’t stop craving kale or broccoli.” Tribole laughs. She says you might be more likely to crave sweets if you’re not getting enough carbohydrates, which often happens to people who are dieting and depriving themselves of certain things on a nutritional level.
“Our brain relies on carbohydrates,” says Tribole. “They’re the preferred fuel of the brain…. If you’re having these cravings and if you find yourself thinking about food 24/7, that’s a sign you’re not getting enough to eat. It’s your body trying to survive. ”
Holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque — who’s worked with celebs like Jessica Alba — says hormones also can impact the foods we yearn for. “Cortisol plays a big part in food cravings — it's the hormone produced by the adrenals when our body senses stress,” she says. In small doses, it's fine, but chronically elevated levels of cortisol may lead to longings for specific foods like scrumptious crumb cakes.
“Stress, which most of us experience on a day-to-day basis, can cause cravings that have us in dire search of highly palatable foods like cookies, pizza, and chips,” she says.” We crave these foods because when we eat them we release the "reward hormone" dopamine.”
When it comes to food cravings, LaVeque says, it can be good to focus on nourishing your body "with anti-inflammatory and blood sugar–balancing meals, without focusing on the perfection and strict rules, since those cause even more stress.”
“Instead, focus on getting to bed an hour early at night, text a friend to schedule a workout, and at your next meal focus on filling up on blood sugar balancing foods like protein, fat, fiber and greens,” she says.
There are tons of theories out there about why pregnant women crave certain foods. Some hinge on hormonal changes, and other suggest that they’re about nutritional deficits, according to a 2014 review in Frontiers in Psychology. Whatever the reason, pregnancy cravings are certainly common, and may lead you to crave anything from pickles to ice cream.
If you find yourself spooning frosting out of the Betty Crocker jar, it could be because you’re dehydrated. Some research suggests being dehydrated triggers cravings foods, according to Cleveland Clinic.
You’re on your period.
Tribole notes that period cravings are common, and notes that the body has more energy needs leading up to menstruation, which might cause the body to need more fuel and crave certain things. “I would have sworn cravings would be specific to chocolate during this time, but research shows that women will crave a wide variety of different kinds of foods during this time,” she says.
They’re emotional cravings.
Tribole notes that some cravings are tied to emotional factors. “Maybe you’ve been going 24/7 working hard and you need a break,” she says. “You start thinking about the vending machine, and it’s the only way your mind is willing to give you a break.”
It’s a special time of year.
Tribole says it’s not unreasonable for people to yearn for pumpkin ice cream in the fall, or sugar cookies during the holidays. “Sometimes a seasonal thing, and sometimes it’s just about food,” she says
Ultimately, Tribole says, sometimes cravings are just cravings. “Sometimes it’s about listening to body — what tastes, good, what sounds good — and letting go of food rules gradually, “she says. “And sometimes a food just sounds good.”
(Reuters Health) - Many patients with life-threatening food allergies may feel anxious or overwhelmed at times, but it’s rare for mental health professionals to be involved in their care, suggests a survey of U.S. centers of excellence in allergy treatment.
Allergy specialists and mental health professionals should work together to create easier pathways for patients to get mental health support, the survey team writes in a “clinical communication” in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“Food allergy is a chronic disease, but unique because you don’t suffer from the pain of it every day, but every time you eat, you may be afraid that something bad might happen,” said Dr. Marcus Shaker, a pediatric allergist at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, who wasn’t involved in the paper.
About 8 percent of children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a food allergy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Depending on how that’s framed and approached has profound implications, and it can start at an early age with family or doctors,” Shaker told Reuters Health in a phone interview. “For some families, it doesn’t affect them much, but for others, it’s a completely different framing with constant vigilance and fear.”
In the paper, a group of clinicians led by Linda Herbert of the Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., describe the results of their online survey. The authors were not available to comment on their report.
The survey asked site coordinators at 28 Food Allergy Research and Education Clinical Network Centers of Excellence across the U.S. about the presence of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other counselors in their practice, and the availability of mental health practitioners in the community through referrals.
Survey questions also asked about perceptions of the mental health concerns patients had in relation to managing their food allergies, allergy tests and challenges, and participation in clinical trials.
Overall, 22 of the centers of excellence were in hospital settings, including 16 that provided care only to children. Among the sites, five had a mental health professional in their division, full or part-time. More than half of the sites had a professional in their institution to whom they could refer patients, but fewer had a professional in the community for referral. Only four places had students who were receiving training in food allergy-related mental health concerns.
All but one of the survey participants said they observed food allergy-related mental health concerns in their patients, including both child and parent anxiety. Site coordinators thought mental health services could be most beneficial at the time of allergy diagnosis, before notable developmental transitions in kids and before food challenges occurred. Coordinators also said they had observed mental health concerns related to dosing, allergic reactions, epinephrine use in emergencies and food aversions.
Eighteen participants said they didn’t have mental health support for clinical trial participants, but would like to have it. They also noted that they thought few mental health professionals had adequate food allergy knowledge to provide specialized care.
“We’ve seen kids develop a full-blown anxiety disorder, and if they do have a reaction, it can be traumatic and cause some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder that takes time to get back to where they were,” said Dr. Amanda Cox of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute in New York City, who wasn’t involved in the paper.
The allergy and mental health communities should work together to create educational programs about food allergy for mental health professionals and primary care doctors, as well as expand the pool of professionals available for referrals, the study authors write.
“With any chronic health problem, it’s important for parents and caregivers to observe how it affects how a person functions in the world,” Cox said in a phone interview. “If it limits them and is stressful, it could be a problem that could benefit from good coping mechanisms.”
Is Vegetable Oil Healthy?
Many of us grew up hearing that margarine was healthier than butter, avocado was "fattening," and that vegetable oil, as long as you didn't use a lot of it to cook your boneless, skinless chicken breast to serve with your (low-fat!) white pasta, was a healthy option. For dessert, you had a wide variety of fat-free cookies and reduced-fat ice creams to choose from.
Many of you reading this right now might also be rolling your eyes at the memory of all the unhealthy food we or our parents filled those shopping carts with. The nutrition world right now sometimes reminds me a little of the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, in which the protagonist, who's been cryogenically preserved, wakes up 200 years later, everything—including what foods are considered healthy—has changed.
I get asked a lot by my clients about vegetable oil: What: is the deal? Is it healthy? Unhealthy? What's even in it?
If you've ever stood in the grocery store feeling totally overwhelmed as you tried to choose between the various bottles of cooking oils, you're not alone. To help simplify your life, here's what you need to know about vegetable oil.
So what is vegetable oil, anyway?
Despite its name, vegetable oil doesn't actually contain a lot of vegetables. Typically, vegetable oil is a blend of different oils extracted from sources such as corn, peanut, rapeseed, safflower, soybeans, and sunflower seeds, among others. Have you ever looked at an ingredients label and seen something like, "sunflower or palm kernel oil" and been like, "How do you not know—isn't this a nutrition facts label?" That's an example of vegetable oil.
Vegetable oil has a neutral flavor, and, like other oils, it has about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon. It tends to be inexpensive and used as a generic all-purpose oil.
Is vegetable oil healthy?
With all the wonderful options in the oil aisle, I typically counsel my clients to leave this one on the shelf. My No. 1 concern with vegetable oils is how difficult it is to truly know what's in there. For people with severe allergies to one or more of the potential ingredients, this can be a major risk.
While messaging around dietary fats used to look primarily at total grams of fat and how many of them were saturated, today, health care professionals generally look more closely at the amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and trans fats. Other important factors are the amount and ratio of two polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. It's not that these differences were completely unknown, but there was less of an emphasis on the nuances.
Then there is the fact that vegetable oil is highly processed refined oil generally made from extracting the oil via chemical solvents or an oil mill.
They also are typically high in omega-6 fatty acids. Again, though, without knowing the ratio of ingredients, you can't really know what the ratio is between saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat, how much omega-3 fatty acids compared to omega-6 fatty acids. However, since most of the potential ingredients are high in polyunsaturated linolenic acid, you can tell you're getting a lot of omega-6, even if you're not exactly clear just how much.
Omega-3s are considered anti-inflammatory, whereas omega-6s, have been shown to have an inflammatory effect when we consume too much, setting the stage for tissue damage and disease. Aside from fueling inflammation, they've also been shown to inhibit the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s. Unfortunately, the standard American diet tends to be high in omega-6 and deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the conditions associated with a high intake of omega-6 and low intake of omega-3 include obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, among others.
Because vegetable oil is used in so much of the processed food that makes up a large part of the standard American diet, it's a large contributor of omega-6 fatty acid intake. In addition to not using vegetable oil in home cooking, reducing your intake of processed foods can make a positive impact in regards to your intake of omega-6 versus omega-3 fatty acid ratio.
What are good alternatives to vegetable oil?
Switching from vegetable oil to a healthier oil for cooking at home is a great first step in the right direction. Two oils I love and frequently recommend are olive oil and avocado oil. Both are very high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and are versatile choices. Flavorful extra-virgin olive oil is a delicious option for use in salad dressings, sautéing, and roasting at temperatures below its smoke point of about 325 to 375 degrees F. Avocado oil has a neutral flavor and a higher smoke point of about 500 degrees F. Coconut oil and ghee are two others to try if you're looking for a rich flavor or for a fat that is solid at room temperature.
Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acid food sources is another beneficial step you can take. Choosing animal-based sources like fatty fish (try wild salmon, sardines, and mackerel), grass-fed beef, and eggs or plant-based sources like flax, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Whichever oil you choose, make sure you take care of it appropriately. Typically, you want to purchase an oil in a dark bottle and to store it in a cool, dark place to help prevent the oil from going rancid.
The bottom line?
Nourishing sources of fat are important in the diet, and choosing a healthy cooking oil is a step you can take to promote health. Vegetable oil is not as wholesome as it sounds, with a hard-to-pin-down list of ingredients that can be risky for allergy sufferers and high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation. Choosing a healthier oil like olive oil or avocado oil and increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help you nurture your health through food.
Source: Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, INHC
Mushrooms are all the rage right now and for a good reason. They’re known to strengthen our immune system, support detoxification, and reduce our risk of mild cognitive impairment (the stage before dementia). So naturally, we're finding ways to put them in everything.
This salad recipe, published in Vegetables Illustrated by America's Test Kitchen, uses features cremini mushrooms, which are high in selenium ideal for supporting healthy thyroid functioning, and potassium known to promote more restful sleep.
This light and flavorful salad also includes another fan favorite: celery. Celery is known to improve digestion, calm the nervous system, and make your skin glow. You'll reduce waste by using the ribs and the leaves and will be left with a delicious and nutritious salad!
Shaved Mushroom And Celery Salad
Sasha Gill is a vegan food blogger, a medical student at Oxford University, and the author of the new cookbook East Meets Vegan. Growing up in Singapore, Sasha Gill was surrounded by what she calls "a melting pot of cultures," which she says influenced a rich and diverse cuisine. After leaving for boarding school when she was 16, she decided to become a vegan but was not ready to leave behind her favorite traditional dishes from India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, China, and Japan. Over the past few years, she's found innovative ways to recreate classic dishes using plant-based ingredients while maintaining their integrity.
Gill still wanted to eat Japanese classics like tonkotsu ramen broth, which traditionally is made from pork marrow or pork bone and can take more than 12 hours to cook. She set out to develop a recipe that held its bold staple flavors and took less time to make. Her vegan ramen recipe includes ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, high in B vitamins, known to support healthy brain and adrenal functioning, as well as ginger, associated with anti-inflammatory and anti-aging benefits.
Customize your ramen to your liking with toppings like scallions, nori, sesame seeds, and edamame. The options are endless, and with some extra time on your hands, you can get creative!
Shiitake "Tonkotsu" RamenServes 2
The United States still struggles to feed people healthy food, according to a new analysis by Reinvestment Fund, a non-profit organization.
The analysis of limited supermarket areas, or LSAs, shows that in most states, access to healthy food improved, even in states with significant population growth such as Florida and Arizona. The number of people who lived in LSAs is down 3.1 million from 2010 — that's a decrease of 6.8 percent in 2010 to 5.6 percent in 2016. But progress hasn't been consistent across the country.
Even though grocery stores aren't the only places to get fresh food — other retailers include drug stores, corner stores, and clubs like Costco and Sam's Club — health experts note that food prices at grocery stores are lower than at smaller stores. Large clubs typically require membership fees that may be a barrier for some families. And, when there are fewer grocery stores in a given area, food prices are typically higher.
Additionally, the analysis found that LSAs — often called food deserts — are disproportionately found in areas where people have low incomes, live in poverty or are people of color. For example, even though food access improved overall in Rhode Island — the number of people living in LSAs dropped 38 percent between 2010 and 2016 — 91 percent of Rhode Island's remaining LSA population is low-income residents.
The Reinvestment Fund analysis identifies LSAs by looking at criteria such as income, car ownership rates, and the distance to existing grocery stores, making adjustments for differences in rural and urban areas. Still, in LSAs, residents travel almost twice as far to get to grocery stores as residents in places with good access to healthy food, even when there is similar population density and car ownership.
Retailers typically place stores in areas where there's enough demand to sustain operations, such as a denser population with a higher income. Low-income or rural areas don't offer those characteristics to attract retailers without other incentives. In urban areas, retailers face barriers such as real estate costs, limited parking space for customers and even traffic issues, where it may be hard for large trucks to enter to make regular deliveries.
The LSA analysis by the Reinvestment Fund helps direct government assistance, through the government's Healthy Food Financing Initiative, to communities to help bring grocery stores and healthy food retailers to underserved communities. Some communities address food access through grassroots efforts such as mobile grocery stores, community gardens and farmers markets. And in the past eight to 10 years, drug stores such as Walgreens have made efforts to stock limited grocery items including milk, eggs and fruit, calling these efforts a "food oasis" to combat limited access in food deserts.
Access to healthy food is key for good health and quality of life. People who live in areas with poor access to healthy food are 55 percent less likely to have a good-quality diet that includes culturally appropriate food, according to a 2009 study from National Research Council on the Public Health Effects of Food Deserts. On the other hand, in communities with good access to healthy food, there is a reduced incidence of diabetes. Food access also impacts other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and even some types of cancer.
Source -How stuff works
As others are doing in Seattle and Philadelphia, the small city of Davenport is addressing local food insecurity with a regenerative, seven-layer garden, known as a “food forest."
The Quad City Food Forest uses permaculture techniques to create a layered “guild” system — i.e., a group of plants that help each flourish. The layers include “root, mushroom and shallow-rooted foods at the base of the garden, followed by vining varieties, ground covers and herbs,” according to the Quad-City Times. Next, there’s a flowering- and fruiting-shrub layer, then a low-tree layer and finally a full fruit- and nut-tree layer.
According to the paper, the food is available to the community for free.
“Volunteers take food home on a weekly basis, and anything that is left over, we will take to several local shelters and food pantries,” food forest president Conza Borders recently told the paper.
As Next City has covered, closed-loop agriculture is increasingly being used by cities to address hunger, food deserts and even mental health. The food forest model is particularly effective for low-income families because many community gardens require money for membership dues, seeds and tools. Food forests are designed to regenerate, with volunteers sharing seed-saving methods and planting native perennials that boost harvests year after year. They also tend to have an open-door policy.
“Anyone can come at any time of day and take whatever they want,” Michael Muehlbauer, the agricultural engineer and orchardist behind the Fair Amount Food Forest, told Next City earlier this year.
In Philadelphia, agriculturists want to borrow an idea from Seattle and use public land to create food forests. Their proposal wouldn’t just address food insecurity, but create a “different model for the civic commons,” Muehlbauer told Next City.
“Humanity used to have more of these spaces, for collectively growing food for each other and sharing it, and this is just trying to bring that back a little bit,” he said.
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