Know GMO Monday, Jul 18 2016 

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The more options science offers us, the more concerns we have in regards to ethics, health, and safety. Those concerns often create emotionally charged camps with opposing viewpoints. Such is the way with GMO products.

GMO, the acronym for Genetically Modified Organisms, and GE, the acronym for Genetically Engineered, refer to living organisms whose genetic material has been manipulated through biotechnology. Genes are isolated and added to cells in a laboratory to produce desired traits in new cells, altering the DNA.

Most developed nations, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, either significantly restrict or ban the production and sale of GMOs. They consider them to be unsafe.

But, according to the FDA, GMO/GE foods are as safe as non-GMO since all must meet the same food safety requirements. The FDA also states that the practices of selective breeding and cross-breeding have been in existence for thousands of years with the same intent of creating more flavorful crops with higher yield and resistance to insects and diseases.

Foods from GMO plants were first introduced into the U.S. food supply in the 1990s. Today, cotton, corn, and soybeans are the most common GMO crops. In fact, 93% of all soybeans, and 88% of all corn planted, are from GMO seeds. Other major GMO crops include potatoes, squash, apples, and papayas.

Anti-GMO activists, who refer to these crops as “Frankenfoods,” argue that GMOs may cause environmental damage and health concerns. The non-profit organization, The Non-GMO Project, describes GMOs as living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated through genetic engineering creating “unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that do not occur in nature.” In addition, they say that contrary to public belief, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

Instead, The Non-GMO Project claims that there is evidence that GMOs do result in health problems, environmental damage, and violation of farmer’s and consumers’ rights. And there is great concern that  GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance. This results in increased use of toxic herbicides like Roundup, and the emergence of super weeds and bugs which require even more toxic poisons to extinguish them.

Since as much as 80% of conventionally processed foods contain GMOs, The Non-GMO project advises reading labels carefully. They offer the example of raisins that may be packed with a small quantity of oil which could present a high-GMO risk.

However, the ability for consumers to clearly identify products containing GMO ingredients is another dimension of the argument as companies are not required to disclose this information on labels (except in Vermont). A bill that recently passed will allow consumers access to this knowledge through some type of hidden labeling such as a “QR-code,” but this won’t happen for several years.

(The FDA states that GE/Genetically Engineered is the more accurate term. I use GMO in this post because it is more commonly used.)

(Have you seen my posts on Mary K Doyle Books and Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore Guerin or my Facebook author page? I also have a Facebook page for each of my books with information specific to that title.)

The Dawn of Spring Saturday, Mar 19 2016 

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Color returning to our baby’s cheeks. The price of gasoline going down. Greenery poking through the dark earth. We search for signs of hope, and the dawn of spring does that in the gentlest ways.

Today marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, its earliest arrival since 1896. The season corresponds with the vernal equinox, the day when day and night are nearly the same. Equinox comes from the Latin aequus and nox, meaning equal night. Earth’s two hemispheres receive the sun’s rays nearly the same amount of time because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun. The equinox occurs at the identical moment worldwide regardless of the time on the clock.

Nature responds to the increasing sunlight with birds singing, trees budding, crocus blooming, and temperatures climbing. Resurrection, new beginnings, and life anew. Our spirit is lifted in anticipation of happy, sunny days.

©2016, Mary K Doyle

You’re Not a Baby, Carrot Sunday, Jan 24 2016 

Crunchy, sweet, tasty – baby carrots make a great little snack whether we dip them or not. I love the way they snap when you bite into them and the idea that they contribute toward a healthy diet. But did you know that these little carrots didn’t grow that way?

The January 15, 2016 Wall Street Journal featured the most fascinating article by Roberto A. Ferdmanon on these little babies. He said the path to popularity began when California carrot farmer Mike Yorosek peeled and sculpted bite-sized carrots from deformed regular sized ones. It was an effort to prevent the produce from being delegated to the trash. He sent a bag to a local grocery chain along with his full-sized carrots. The stores asked for only the baby ones from that point on.

This ingenious idea boomed into big business. Carrot consumption snowballed every year. More than 70% of all carrot sales now are from these little jewels which sell at a premium.

Carrots are packed with antioxidants. They may have an anti-cancer effect and help regulate blood-sugar. They are an excellent source of vitamin A and also contribute toward our needs for vitamins C and K, calcium, iron, potassium, folate, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc as well as fiber.

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

Nutritious Whole Grains Sunday, Jun 21 2015 

Did you know that corn is a whole grain? Have you ever tried amaranth?

Whole grains are often recommended for a healthy diet, including the one I posted about in regards to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But in order to eat the recommended three servings a day, we need to know what qualifies as a whole grain food.

Food made from whole grain, whether it is cracked, crushed, rolled, or cooked, contain the entire grain seed in its original proportions. It contains the bran, germ, and endosperm.

In the United States, if an ingredient label says whole wheat or whole wheat flour, we can be assured that it contains the whole grain. However, in Canada if the words “whole grain” are not included in the label the wheat may be only 95% whole grain.

The most common whole grains include: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, wheat, and wild rice. Amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat do not belong in the Poaceae botanical family as the others do, but are considered “pseudo-grains” because they have the same nutritional profile.

Amaranth was a staple of the Aztec culture until Cortez threatened to put to death anyone who grew it in an attempt to destroy the entire civilization. The grain has a peppery taste and high level of protein and an amino acid called lysine that is negligible in other grains.

Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains. Its tough hull is difficult to remove without losing some of the bran but lightly pearled barley is still high in fiber.

Buckwheat isn’t really a grain. It’s actually botanically related to rhubarb. Buckwheat grows well on rocky hillsides.

Bulgur is the result of wheat kernels that are boiled, dried, cracked, and sorted by size. It is high in nutrition and cooks in only 10 minutes.

Corn has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable. Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is fed to cattle but also commonly found in foods for human consumption. When corn is combined with beans, the combination of amino acids raises the protein value.

Millet includes several small, related grains commonly consumed in India, China, South America, Russia, and the Himalayas. It’s found in variations of white, gray, yellow, and red and is high in protein and antioxidants. Millet is gluten-free and used in flatbreads, side dishes, deserts and even alcoholic beverages.

Oats contain a fiber called beta-glucan that is effective in lowering cholesterol and has a unique antioxidant that helps protect blood vessels. The more oats are steamed and flattened, the quicker it cooks.

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is botanically related to Swiss chard and beets. It can be found in a light color as well as red, purple, and black. Quinoa should be rinsed before cooking to remove the bitter naturally occurring residue of saponins. It is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids.

Rice can be found in white, brown, black, purple, and red. It’s one of the most easily digested grains and is gluten-free. Converted rice has added B vitamins making it healthier than white but still lacks the nutrients found in brown and other varieties.

Rye is high in fiber producing a feeling of fullness. To lower glycemic index, look for whole rye or rye berries on the label.

Sorghum, also called milo, thrives where other crops cannot. Although edible and can be eaten like porridge or ground into flour, most of the U.S. crop is fed to animals, made into wallboard, or used for biodegradable packing materials.

Teff has twice the iron and three times the calcium of other grains. It is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians.

Triticale, pronounced trit-i-KAY-lee, is a hybrid of durum wheat and rye. It is easy to grow organically.

Wheat contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein necessary for bread to rise. Bread wheat is considered hard or soft depending on its protein and gluten content. Wheat has many varieties including einkorn, farro/emmer, freekeh, kamut®Khorasan, and spelt.

Wild Rice really is a seed of an aquatic grass rather than a rice. It was originally grown by indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes. Because of its high price and strong flavor it’s usually blended with other rices or grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice but less iron and calcium.

(Information from this post was taken from the WholeGrainsCouncil.org. Go to their site for more details.)

 

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

No Mothballs for Me Wednesday, Sep 17 2014 

Chipmunks rule the land. The cute little critters dig holes all around my house.

My sister suggested placing mothballs—those old-fashioned white, pungent balls grandmas used decades ago—along the perimeter of the house to ward them off. I don’t know how many chipmunks they kept away, but I couldn’t stand the smell and found that I was avoiding everywhere that the mothballs were. I retrieved and tossed them all. Surprisingly, the trash can smelled from them for weeks afterwards.

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide and deodorant used to protect clothes from mold, moth larva, and silverfish. It also may repel snakes, mice, and other small pests. Not only is their smell offensive and overpowering, mothballs pose some serious health hazards. They must be used with great caution around family pets and children.

The ingredients have changed over the years but they continue to be somewhat flammable. They contain a chemical called 1,4-dichlorobenzene. Sometimes packaging lists it as para-dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, pDCB, or PDB.

Mothballs are highly toxic when ingested. The US Department of Health and Human Services has determined this ingredient to be a carcinogen. It is a neurotoxin and may cause series illness or death. Large quantities in a basement or living space may also cause respiratory problems.

A better alternative to mothballs may be to spread blood meal or pieces of unchewed sticks of fragrant gum near chipmunk holes.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

The Sting of Fall Tuesday, Sep 9 2014 

It’s that time of year. The wasps, which seem more active in the fall in the Midwest, have joined our outdoor fun in full force, especially when food is involved.

Vespid wasps include paper wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. They can be differentiated from bees by their lack of body hair and thin, elongated bodies.

Paper wasps live in colonies of less than 100 and build open umbrella-shaped nests often suspended under eaves. Yellow jackets and hornets have colonies larger than 100. Hornets build massive, enclosed nets found hanging from tree branches. Yellow jackets, the most annoying wasps to humans, also make enclosed nests but build them below ground.

All three produce new colonies each year. Only the mated queens survive the cold winter months. In late summer or fall, the old queen dies, and a new one mates before its siblings die off.

The severity of reaction to a wasp sting depends on our sensitivity and whether we’ve been stung before. Most often, there is a little swelling or itching. If the stinger is visible, it should be gently removed and the area washed with soap and water. A cold compress and a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, will ease the pain.

An allergic reaction may include mild nausea, intestinal cramps, diarrhea, or swelling larger than 4 inches in diameter at the site. We should seek medical assistance immediately if there is difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips or throat, faintness, dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, or hives.

(Information gathered from mayoclinic.com and about.com)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Back to the Beginning Tuesday, Jul 15 2014 

Farming got a boost in productivity with the discoveries of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers but we now know that more food does not mean more nutrition. These substances have toxic results on our health. The nutritional differences between conventional and organic foods are debated, although most people see the health benefits of foods without chemicals.

A 2012 study, which some believe is flawed,  found no significant difference in nutritional value between conventional and organic foods. But a new analysis from the United Kingdom analyzed over 300 studies and concluded that organic crops are higher in antioxidants.

They also have lower levels of toxic metals and pesticide residues. Most significantly, organic crops are said to have an average of 48% less cadmium, a metal that can cause kidney failure, bone softening, and liver damage.

Organic farmers are not allowed to plant genetically engineered seeds or use synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, hormones or antibiotics. Not only does this result in healthier food, organic fruits and vegetables have higher levels of favor-enhancing nutrients, so they taste better.

Organic farming also benefits the livestock, farmers, and environment. Organic farmers provide more humane conditions for the animals and leave soil and water supplies less contaminated. Additionally, farm workers avoid contact with the toxins used on conventional farms.

Organic foods can be expensive in some areas, but perhaps not in the long run. If we are healthier, we can live better and longer with fewer medical bills. Sometimes advances in science bring us back to the beginning where less is best.

Read more about organics at: Organic Center and the USDA website.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

 

Bunny Hop Tuesday, Apr 22 2014 

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The bunny that hippity-hopped into most of our homes this past weekend was made of chocolate, and once spotted, lost its ears. But if we look out the window throughout the Midwest, it’s not hard to spot the real ones bouncing around gardens and parks as more than half of the world’s rabbit population lives in North America.

Bunny is an informal name for rabbit. Rabbits live in groups and wander meadows, forests, grasslands, wetlands, and even desserts. They are herbivores, feeding on grass and seemingly, all of our favorite garden flowers. They also eat large amounts of cellulose. Interestingly, rabbits are incapable of vomiting.

Rabbits, except for cottontail rabbits, are born blind and hairless and live underground. They are most active at dawn and dusk and will sleep more than 8 hours, often with their eyes open watching for predators. These little guys can live 9-12 years if left unharmed.

Although rabbits and hares are both in the family, Leporidae, they belong to two separate species. Hares are born with fur and good vision and are typically larger, have longer ears, and larger hind legs than rabbits. And they do not burrow as rabbits do. Rather they make nests in grass.

Rabbits are often domesticated but hares are not.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Lily White Friday, Apr 18 2014 

The sweet, pungent fragrance of Easter Lilies along with colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, and baskets of goodies signal the season. If it is your tradition to include lilies in your holiday celebration, they are available in nearly every grocery, garden, floral, and gift shop, much like the poinsettia we see at Christmas.

The lily is a symbol of virtue, innocence, hope, life, and the resurrection of Jesus. It is called the milk of Hera in mythology and featured in early artwork of the Virgin Mary to signify the Annunciation and her purity.

The flower is sometimes referred to as the white-robed apostles of hope because it is said that lilies grew where drops of Jesus’ perspiration fell along the way to the cross. Another legend is that when the Virgin Mary’s tomb was opened three days after her burial, her body was not there but the tomb was filled with lilies.

The lily is mentioned in the Bible 15 times. Song of Solomon has 8 references. I particularly like the ones in Matthew and Luke because they are reminders not to worry about our daily needs if we are striving for the Kingdom.

Lilium longiflorum, which is the Latin name for the Easter Lily, is native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan. Bulbs initially were brought into the United States in 1919 by a World War I soldier, Louis Houghton, but the Easter Lily bulbs sold here were imported from Japan until 1941. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, importing ceased and US production took off. The Oregon-California border is now known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World and produces nearly all of the bulbs used in Easter Lily pots.

Production is an exact and demanding science. The process begins with a small growth, called a bulblet, on a mother plant. The bulblet is removed and planted in another field. It is dug up the following year and replanted again in a new field and remains there for another year until the plant is harvested.

When purchasing a lily plant, look for flowers in various stages and an abundance of dark green foliage to signify a healthy, blossoming plant. Remove any paper, plastic or mesh sleeve and also the yellow anthers before pollen starts to shed for longer flower life.

Lilies prefer cooler room temperatures, preferably 60-65°F during the day and cooler at night. Avoid placing the plant near drafts or direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but well-drained.

After the plant has ceased blooming, it may be cut down and planted outside in a well-drained garden bed. Plant the bulb about 3 inches below ground level and mound up with three inches of top soil. As with the indoor plant, keep the soil moist but not overly wet or dry.

 “Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the filed, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well (Luke 12:27-31).

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

(Some of the information for this post was taken from Aggie Horticulture, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System.)

Save the Daylight Tuesday, Mar 11 2014 

Yay for Daylight Saving Time! Except for dancing in the dark, daylight makes us happy. Seeing some light at the end of a long work day feels as if we still have plenty of time to ourselves.

Daylight Saving Time (notice the correct terminology is “Saving” not “Savings”) has a long history and a mixed bag of pros and cons. The main intent for it is to save energy. If we use less energy to light our world, how can it not result in savings?

Modern Daylight Saving was first proposed in 1895 by a New Zealander named George Vernon Hudson and implemented in Germany in 1916 to conserve coal during World War I. The U.S. officially adopted DST during that time as well.

Then the U.S. program got tweaked along the way. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson called for Daylight Saving time to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October each year. Ronald Reagan amended this program to begin at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. Finally, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that extended DST by four weeks.

DST does save energy in the evenings but this may be offset by more consumption in the mornings. Also, some parts of the world benefit more than others. Although DST helps to save energy in cooler climates, there is increased demand in warmer ones. Little impact is seen in areas closer to the earth’s poles such as Iceland and Alaska and near the equator where there is only a small variation in daylight through t the year.

Some of the disadvantages of the time changes include the confusion over meetings and appointments in neighboring areas with different time zones as there is in the state of Indiana. Overall, DST causes disruption to scheduling, travel, sleep patterns, and we also have the time, expense, and inconvenience of physically changing the clocks. Farmers see some disadvantageous because grain is best harvested after dew evaporates and cows are sensitive to the timing of milking.

And there is some impact on our health. More daylight allows more exposure to the sun and an increased chance of developing skin cancer. And interestingly, heart attacks increase the first three weekdays after the spring transition.

But the extra daylight is believed to benefit retailers and centers for outside sports and activities as well. In addition, DST results in a slight reduction in traffic fatalities and accidents involving pedestrians. It also reduces violent crimes in some categories. And there does appear to be fewer fires because of the practice of replacing batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when we change the clocks.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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