Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Got Milk? or Got Had?

Ah, milk- so creamy and white. It's the epitome of pure and wholesome goodness. It should be noted, however, that pus is also white and, coincidently, also in your glass of milk. When it comes to actual nutrition and what is good for our bodies, Americans have really had the wool pulled over our eyes and none more so than what the Dairy Council would have us believe. As of 2009, the milk mustache advertising budget came to a total of $190 million.(1) If you think that number is astronomical, it doesn't even come close to the detrimental cost to our health.

The health of the conventional dairy cow is also severely compromised. The typical dairy cow has the life span of 20 to 25 years but with the high output forced from these ladies their lifespan has dwindled to 2 to 7 years.(1)  From 1970 to 2006 the number of cows declined by 25%, however, the output of milk per cow has more than doubled.(2)  Just like any other mammal, cows must be pregnant to lactate. Once born, the calves are taken from their mothers in a sad cycle that perpetuates profit and completely ignores the mother cow's very real and heartbreaking separation anxiety from her baby. To add insult to injury the mother cows are then literally pumped full of synthetic hormones (rBGH- a genetically modified ingredient) to make them produce more milk than they would have on their own. This in turn causes poor health in the cows as their bodies are not prepared for this increased demand, including mastitis, which is a painful inflammation of breast tissue needing anti-biotics to treat.  Toxins are excreted from any lactating mammal through the milk, including: anti-biotics, pesticides, chemicals and hormones. The USDA also allows cow milk to contain 1 -1.5 million white blood cells (aka pus!) per milliliter.(3) Kind of puts a new spin on that white milk mustache now, doesn't it?

Not only has it been drilled into our heads that we have to drink milk to be healthy but culturally speaking we have completely embraced drinking another animal's gland secretions. If two glasses of milk were on the table, one cow milk and one human milk, which one would you drink? Why is it that our own kind's milk is deemed disgusting? It is interesting to note that we are the only mammals to drink other mammal's milk and beyond infancy at that.

The sole purpose of milk is to make babies grow. It's composition is made to support rapid growth during a relative short time period and is also specific to its species. Calves need massive skeletal growth and massive muscle group support so cow milk has 3 to 4 times the amount of protein than human milk. Humans need advanced neurological development support so our milk has 6 to 10 times the amount of essential fatty acids over cow milk.(3) A Lancet study done in 1992 randomly placed premature infants into two groups. One group was fed conventional cow milk formula and the second group was fed breast milk. A 10 year follow up found the group fed breast milk had higher IQ's by 10 points!(3)

Another component of milk is hormones. For a growing baby these natural hormones are beneficial but for an already grown adult, not so much. There are over sixty hormones in one glass of milk, including anabolic hormones which are mostly androgens (and why people with acne usually see positive results when they stop consuming dairy) and growth hormone IGF-1 that is linked to tumor growth.(4) This is true for all milk even organic and grass-fed varieties.  

There have been a couple of studies linking milk to cancer:

Physicians Health Study, tracking 21,660 participants for 28 years, found increased risk of prostate cancer for men that consumed more than 2.5 servings of dairy a day. This was even true in cases where the men consumed low-fat dairy as well.(5)

Life after Cancer Epidemiology Study including 1,893 women who had been diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer found that higher amounts of high-fat dairy consumption were associated with higher mortality rates. Half a serving a day also significantly increased this risk.(5)

So let's put aside for the moment the pus and blood allotments in milk, the fact that we are drinking another tortured animal's secretions and the links to cancer. Is this stuff actually healthy for you? That is a big fat NO. When The Federal Trade Commission asked the USDA for scientific proof of health claims made in the milk mustache ads, their scientist stated:

-Milk doesn't benefit sports performance

-There's no evidence that dairy is good for your bones or prevents osteoporosis. The animal protein may in fact help cause bone loss.

-Dairy is linked to prostate cancer and heart disease

-Dairy causes digestive problems for the 75% of people with lactose intolerance(4)

The Nurses Health Study, one of the largest studies conducted on women, followed 121,700 women since 1976 and then 116,000 since 1989, revealed that dairy may increase the risk of fractures up to 50%.(6)

Countries with the lowest consumption of dairy also have the lowest occurrence of osteoporosis (4) and breast cancer.(1) Once the western diet is introduced the breast cancer rates increase eightfold.(1) The reason for the low rates of osteoporosis in these countries is that the protein in milk actually impede the body's ability to absorb calcium. At this time vitamin D is actually showing more promise in preventing fractures.(4)

Don't hate the messenger. I love me some cheese too! However, now I only eat it on rare occasions and it must be organic, raw and hopefully grass-fed too, if I can afford it. My family and I haven't had milk in five years and use either almond or coconut milk instead. To be honest, the kids complained up a storm when I made the switch but now they love almond milk. As for calcium, vitamin D and healthy fats we take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, chickpeas, parsley and almonds are all great dietary sources of calcium and of course the sun is the best source of vitamin D. The fats are the easiest to make sure we get enough of with olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, hemp and chia seeds and yes, even pastured butter. Which is totally dairy but we don't eat a lot and a girl has to have her vice. I will be writing on the importance of pastured foods in a future post but until then try to slowly lower the amount of dairy eaten on a daily basis. I don't expect you to quit cold turkey or to even give up dairy all together but to try and limit it as much as possible (helps lower your grocery bill too!). Your health is in your hands. Good luck and happy and safe eating!

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturdays series.

  1. Silverstone, Alicia, The Kind Diet. New York: Rodale Inc., 2009. Print.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Notorious G.M.O.

Photo courtesy of

The Institute for Responsible Technology lists 10 Reasons to Avoid GMO's. You can read the full article here but below is a brief summary of its key points:


  1. Animal studies showed organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune systems disorders, accelerated aging and infertility. In addition, GM corn was found to be present in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn babies.
  2. GMO contamination is indefinite. Cross-pollinating GMO seeds are starting to infect organic crops.
  3. GMO's increase herbicide use.
  4. GM plants can create a whole host of new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.
  5. The FDA does not require safety studies of GMO's or labeling.
  6. The only testing being done on GMO's is from Monsanto funded research.
  7. 3rd party research and reporting is attacked and suppressed.
  8. GMO's are reducing bio-diversity in land, water and air.
  9. GMO's do not increase crop yields.
  10. Vote with your dollars. By not buying GMO products you are telling Monsanto- No thank you!



What exactly is a GMO? It is an acronym for Genetically Modified Organism. The definition from states:


"GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding."


Meaning that they can take the DNA from a fish and splice it with DNA from a tomato plant. (Yummy- not.) I have heard the argument that crossbreeding is the same as GMO's but it is not. In crossbreeding you are working within the same species of plant or animal. Never mixing the two. Not only that but it has been time-tested as safe since humans have been doing this for hundreds of years. GMO's are mixing plant DNA with animal DNA with viruses and bacterial DNA, as well. This has never been done in the history of humanity and there have been little to no official safety tests done on GMO's. Even more, we have no idea what foods we buy that have been genetically modified because there is no labeling! Why is this you ask? First we have to take a look at the company that created GMO's- Monsanto. (Starts playing Darth Vader's theme song…)


Monsanto is an American chemical and agricultural company which is the leading producer of GMO seed. This company has also brought us such favorites as: DDT, PCB's, Agent Orange and recombinant bovine somatotrophin, a.k.a rBGH. (I highly recommend watching this video.)


In the last year there have been two bills proposed to label GMO's that are in our food and both failed to get passed. Monsanto donated $4.2 million to kill Proposition 37 in California and $4.8 million to kill I-522 in Washington state. (If that ticks you off as much as it did me then you can join Food Democracy Now, an online grassroots movement for safe food and let your voice be heard.) One would hope that if GMO's were truly dangerous to people then the FDA would put the kibosh on it. It turns out this GMO business is just a little more nefarious than one would believe.  The video below  is an excerpt from the documentary Food Inc. and quickly highlights what is called the revolving door between our government offices and Monsanto:




This is what we are up against folks. It is a steep up-hill battle but it is one that must be fought. As Americans we are told all the time about our freedoms and yet we don't even have the right to know what is in our food and if that food is safe and safe for our children and our children's children. This is so much more than freedom- this is human rights.


So how can we protect ourselves when there is no labeling of GMO's? Currently the only way to be sure that a food is not genetically modified is to buy organic. For those of us on a budget this is not always possible. No worries, there are still ways to avoid GMO's.


  • Look for foods with the Verified NonGMO Project seal (as seen on the right). It is a 3rd party verification that the food you are purchasing doesn't contain any GMO's even if it is not organic .
  • 80% of corn and 90% of soy in America is GMO. Only buy these products and products containing these ingredients if it is organic or Verified NonGMO. Yes, corn and soy is in everything packaged, it is estimated that 80% of package goods that are not organic are GMO. Another reason to make things from scratch and not out of a box.
  • Do not purchase non-organic meat that is fed a grain diet. The grain is GMO and it does get passed down through the animal to you. Meat that was grass-fed is always the best option.
  • Other foods with high GMO probability: sugar, aspartame (I really hope you are not consuming this in the first place but here is another reason not to), papayas, canola oil, cotton, dairy, zucchinis and yellow squash. Until labeling becomes law, buy these items organic to be safe.


  It is sad to note that when it comes to the developed world, the United States is severely lagging behind when it comes to safety regulations of GMO's. Here are some of the countries that ban the use of GMO's: Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, and newly joined Poland. There are 27 countries in all that have banned GMO's and 50 countries that require labeling of GMO's. With the higher-ups in key positions through out our government the only way we will get our labeling is to hit Monsanto where it hurts. By not buying their messed up GMO products and by letting your voice be heard by petitions and even by contacting your local state representative. Together we can make things happen.


Monday, April 14, 2014

What is Living Granola?

So how, exactly, does one live life like a breakfast cereal? True to it's heritage, back in the 60's when the hippie movement started, living a granola lifestyle encompassed ecological awareness, healthy living and safe, whole foods. As much as I respect my forebears and their granola munching ways for leading the way to healthy living in our modern world, I would be hard-pressed to call myself a hippie in any other aspect of my life. As a licensed esthetician and a beauty product junkie in general, I like the glam-side of life as well.

My first hurrah into this lifestyle actually started with beauty products. My son was just an infant when I read an article on parabens, a synthetic preservative, that was found in high concentrations of biopsied breast tumors that were malignant. I thought it prudent to start looking through my beauty care products to see which ones contained that ingredient. It turned out all of them had parabens and none as much as my son's Johnson & Johnson's baby products that had no less than five different parabens in them! One huge garbage bag of bottles to the curb later (note: the bottles were recycled) I started to take a good look at what was being used in or on or about my home and daily life. It turned out my home needed a major overhaul from beauty to cleaning to eating but I was quick to find out that the best and safest products were more likely than not to be out of my family's price range.

True story:  I thought paying over $5 for a bottle of shampoo was indulgent. My shopping cart looked like a well-played game of Tetris because all the coupons in the newspapers were for boxed goods. A bottle of Lysol could last me three months at like three bucks. So you can imagine my horror at my first Whole Foods shopping trip when the bill came to over $100 for like ten items. Seriously, did they just quadruple ring me for something? Nope, that supposedly was the cost of safe living- but a cost that we could not afford on a day to day basis. There had to be another way. The last seven years for me have been trial and error and error and error, etc. and while this lifestyle can never be deemed as frugal living, I have learned some things along the way to make it attainable and more important- doable. I hope you join me on this blog as I share what I have learned and continue to learn in Living Life Granola.