Curiously Crunchy

Asking crunchy questions for my family and yours.

Say No to Bottled Water

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Last summer here in Northwest Ohio we had what we lovingly refer to as “Aquapocalypse 2014”. There were higher levels of microcystin — a toxin produced by a type of blue-green algae known as microcystis —in our water than the city recommends (although it was below World Health Organization standards).

The story broke in the middle of Friday night and initially we were told we couldn’t touch the water: no showering, no cooking, no drinking, no nothing. We couldn’t boil it, that made the microcystin more concentrated. What’s a resident to do? Run to the store to buy bottled water, along with hundreds of thousands of our neighbors.

But what’s really in that bottled water and is it better than drinking clean tap water?

Safe Plastics?

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Like I’m sure many of you did, I thought BPA-Free plastic meant our plastic was safe. Now I’m not quite sure. True, BPA isn’t used in most any plastic anymore and they have banned a few more endocrine disrupting chemicals, but my search didn’t turn up anything that made me feel confident in the safety of the PET plastic that most manufacturers use to bottle their water. There have been studies that indicate that there are further chemicals to be weary of inside PET plastic, but nothing incredibly definitive either way.

I don’t like taking those risks, especially with my family.

Not as Pure as You Think

The EWG did an investigation into 10 brands of bottled water. The results were nothing short of nasty. They found disinfection byproducts, caffeine, Tylenol, heavy metals, arsenic, radioactive isotopes, nitrates and ammonia, and a bunch of other chemicals from various solvents, plasticizers, and propellants. Gross.

And the EWG isn’t alone in their investigation of waters. In 2008 Texas Southern University tested 35 brands of bottled water and found that 4 were contaminated with bacteria. In 1999, the Natural Resources Defense Council tested 103 bottled waters and found about 1/2 of them contained contaminants and chemicals.

Our trust that the bottled water companies are actually providing with something better than what’s in our tap is clearly misplaced.

Pollution is a Problem

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According to the EPA, 33 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2013 and only 9% of the total plastic waste generated that year was recovered for recycling. Americans on average drink more than 73 BILLION half-liter bottles of water every year. Lining them up end to end, those bottles would circle the world 370 times. They also say approximately only 30% of those bottles are recycled. That is crazy.

In addition to waste produced by the bottles themselves, there is the environmental impact of the bottling plants. The Pacific Institute calculates that producing water bottles requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy to transport them.

So, even if you recycle that bottle, did you think about all the impact of its creation? I never used to, either. But now that you know, perhaps it’s time to switch.

The 411 on Filters

Your best bet for clean drinking water remains in your tap, but perhaps you would rather have something still a little more clean. Home filters are really going to be your best compromise.

A great resource for all things filters is going to be the Environmental Working Group’s Filter Buying Guide, or their comprehensive list of filter types and technologies.

Carbon filters are what Brita filters offer, and also what I have at home. It is the most effective for eliminating any cytotoxin (which microcystin is) besides reverse osmosis (which is expensive).

And finally…

It’s Cheaper!

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Tap water costs about $0.002 a gallon (two-tenths of a penny!!) so the cost of bottled water stacks up to be 1,900 times more than tap water. And at that price, there’s not even the guarantee that it’s any better than what’s flowing out of your tap.

So back to last summer…

After a few hours and waking up the mayor and some other city scientists who did more reviewing and testing, we were told we could pretty much resume our daily lives, except you probably shouldn’t drink the water or cook with it until we got the all clear. Since I know what I know now about bottles vs. filters, should the blue-green algae appearance disturb our drinking water again this summer, I will simply drink exclusively from my Brita filter without a second worry.

Do you drink bottled water? Do you have a water filtering system at home?

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Baby Powder Can Cause Cancer?

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It’s true, according to this study by the National Institute of Health. They concluded “that there is a significant association between the use of talc in genital hygiene and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer”.

Alarmed? So was I, so I did some more digging.

Apparently the issue is that talc mines and asbestos deposits are frequently located close together and the talc can be contaminated by asbestos, causing all kinds of problems. According to the FDA, it is “unacceptable for cosmetic talc to be contaminated with asbestos” but they also say “cosmetic products and ingredients…do not have to undergo FDA review or approval before they go on the market”. While the FDA did conduct a study from 2009-2010 and tested 4 cosmetic labs’ talc for asbestos (these labs came up asbestos-free), they don’t regularly check any cosmetics for anything, including possibly asbestos-infected talc. The American Cancer Society says there needs to be more research done on pure, asbestos-free talc to see if there is a risk for ovarian cancer from pure talc.

Baby talcum powder container.

I use baby powder every single morning to keep my sensitive parts dry and happy during the day, and on my daughter, too. No one is regulating this product to make sure these talc mines are in fact located a safe distance away from asbestos deposits and no one is doing regular check ups on products already on the market to see if they are safe. It is up to the companies to govern themselves and to abide by FDA regulations, but the FDA will only step in after being provided with proof that something is contaminated or harmful. I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly trust a business to govern itself.

What’s a girl, and momma, to do? The answer is either cornstarch or arrowroot powder. You can either use them pure or grind herbs into the powder for scent and the healing components of the different herbs. Katie the Wellness Mama has a good suggestions of herbs she uses. I plan on just using plain since I don’t have a diaper-bound kiddo anymore.

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So I ordered my arrowroot powder yesterday and it should be here soon.

Do you use powder? Are you concerned about the non-existance of checkups on the mining and production of talc and talcum powder?

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GMOs: Just Label It!

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The National Institute of Health did a study in 2009 saying that we just don’t know enough about GMOs to determine if they are harmful. According to JustLabelIt.org almost 90% of Americans simply want to know what’s in their food. This study shows that labeling GMOs will have little to no effect on food prices. So why is big business so determined to keep the knowledge of what we’re eating away from us? The answer is simple: greed.

It isn’t the genetically modified food in and of itself that is the problem for me. It is the reason why we created them in the first place that causes me concern: so we can spray them with mass amount of pesticides, and they will survive but the weeds will die. This spraying of chemicals should cause EVERYONE concern.

Monsanto, the country’s most notorious GMO proponent, owns RoundUp (active ingredient: glyphosate). GMOs were created to withstand large amounts of glyphosate, thus killing the weeds and leaving the crop to grow. While there is no data about GMOs themselves, there is data on glyphosate.

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While household RoundUp has 1% glyphosate, commercial grade RoundUp contains 41% glyphosate! [NIH, 2004] Then there’s this juicy nugget: “Roundup may be…considered as a potential endocrine disruptor. Moreover, at higher doses still below the classical agricultural dilutions, its toxicity on placental cells could induce some reproduction problems.” [NIH, 2005] So basically, at doses lower than what’s used on crops this chemical disrupts our endocrine system (the collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things) and has the potential for reproductive issues. Not to mention the “farmers exposed to non‐arsenic pesticides were found to be at increased risk of lymphoma”. [NIH, 2006]

In this 2012 NIH study on rats being fed GMO corn sprayed with glyphosate, they found “In females, all treated groups died 2-3 times more than controls, and more rapidly… Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls, the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments. In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5-5.5 times higher… Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3-2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls which occurred up to 600 days earlier.” So these rats suffered cancer, died earlier and faster, had sex hormone disruption, and liver and kidney issues, all from RoundUp and GMO corn. The World Health Organization calls glyphosate a “probable carcinogen”. Based on all that evidence, I would have to agree.

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Guys, they are spraying this on our food. We are eating it! (And let’s be real, it’s running off into our water and we’re drinking it, too…) And it gets better…

Glyphosate isn’t working anymore. We have created glyphosate resistant weeds. Because of this, we have upgraded to a chemical called 2,4-D. It is a component of Agent Orange. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want ANY component of such a chemical anywhere near my food.

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The time is now to stand up and STOP letting agribusiness think that this is ok. We need labels so consumers can vote with their dollars and let the industry know we don’t want these horribly detrimental chemicals sprayed anymore.

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One of my favorite resources for finding Non-GMO foods is the Non-GMO Project. They are a non-profit organization that verifies products throughout the US and Canada by testing the ingredients in the products being produced by these companies. They have pretty strict standards (all listed on their website at http://www.nongmoproject.org) and in addition to their little logo on the packaging of verified products, the website also provides a list of every product they have verified.

Do you watch for Non-GMO verified products when you go grocery shopping?

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Alternative Sweeteners

(Let me preface this with the statement that I am not a doctor, nor am I a medical professional of any kind. I am just a woman who gets super nosey about what I’m putting in my body and I would like to share a small portion of my research on sweeteners with you below.)

We all know that too much sugar is bad for us, but if you’re like me you can’t drink coffee or tea without a sweetener.

We also all know that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin are full of unnecessary chemicals and garbage that can cause cancer and migraines and all kind of terrible things.

So what’s a girl to use? I’m going to go in to some of the different kinds of sweeteners and which one is my favorite.

First we have Table Sugar

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Usually obtained from Sugar Cane or Sugar Beet, it is processed by crushing and extracting sugarcane or sugar beet with water, evaporating, and purifying with lime, carbon, and various liquids. (From PubChem.)

Traditional table sugar is incredibly refined and any of the beneficial trace nutrients are taken out, leaving it devoid of anything but empty calories.

If used moderately, this sweetener really isn’t so bad, in my opinion, BUT it’s in so much of what we eat already without even realizing, it is rarely my sweetener of choice (except for baking). And when I do use it, I use Sugar In The Raw.

They don’t do the extra refining to get it white (although they do offer a white sugar).

Next up, Agave Syrup

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Agave syrup (or agave nectar) is from the Agave Americana and Agave Tequilana plants. The leaves are cut off the plant after it has aged seven to fourteen years and the juice is then extracted from the core of the agave, called the piña. The juice is filtered, then heated, to break the complex components (the polysaccharides) into simple sugars. This filtered juice is then concentrated to a syrupy liquid, slightly thinner than honey. Its color varies from light- to dark-amber, depending on the degree of processing. The main sweetening agent (called inulin or fructosan) is mostly fructose.

According to Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt (a member of the American College of Nutrition and an associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health) “Agave syrup is almost all fructose, highly processed sugar with great marketing. Fructose interferes with healthy metabolism when (consumed) at higher doses. Many people have fructose intolerance like lactose intolerance. They get acne or worse diabetes symptoms even though their blood [sugar] is OK”. (from the Huffington Post)

This is one of my least favorite options because of the fructose content. If I’m going to consume a sweet syrup, I’m going to go for raw honey. I personally prefer the taste and I don’t need the extra fructose (we’re already getting plenty with HFC in practically everything).

Raw Honey

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Honey is a great food to have around for a number reasons. Although its sweetness comes from mainly fructose and glucose, its other properties make it worth keeping around.

“The support for using honey as a treatment regimen for peptic ulcers and gastritis comes from traditional folklore as well as from reports in modern times. Honey may promote the repair of damaged intestinal mucosa, stimulate the growth of new tissues and work as an anti-inflammatory agent. Raw honey contains copious amounts of compounds such as flavonoids and other polyphenols which may function as antioxidants. Clinical observations have been reported of reduced symptoms of inflammation when honey is applied to wounds. The removal of exudate in wounds dressed with honey is of help in managing inflamed wounds.” (from PubMed)

Wholesome Sweeteners is my favorite, and I even use it to wash my face!

Please note that because honey contains contains small amounts of proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, trace elements, vitamins, aroma compounds and polyphenols, the medical community agrees honey should NOT be given to children under 2.

Stevia – My Favorite 

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My favorite sweetener that I use daily is Stevia. I prefer the taste of Stevia In The Raw, although Wholesome Sweeteners is a close second. I also really like Wholesome Sweeteners because they are Non-GMO Verified and Fair Trade Certified, which the In The Raw brand is not.

Stevia has been found to increase insulin sensitivity and to have beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin levels. According to a National Institute of Health study (found here), stevia had significantly less impact on insulin and blood glucose levels than glucose and aspartame.

Although maltodextrine is listed as an ingredient on the Stevia In The Raw packages, the National Institute of Health says “meals, consumed as either dextrose or maltodextrin, pose little postprandial oxidative insult to young, healthy men. As such, there should be minimal concern over such feedings, even at high dosages, assuming adequate glucose metabolism”, which I interpret to mean that as long as you are pretty healthy overall, it isn’t going to affect you much, especially because I don’t need very much to get my desired sweetness. Its inclusion doesn’t bother me at all, but use your own judgment on what’s best for you and your family.

There is SO MUCH information out there about different sweeteners and the effect they have on our bodies. I encourage you to do your own research and find what works best for you and your family.

Are you loyal to one particular sweetener or brand of sweeteners?

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Your Body on Soda

I have never been a heavy soda drinker. The carbonation tickles my nose and I always end up with stomach pain.

My daughter is 6 years old and more and more has been asking for pop. We’ve come to the agreement (although it’s hard to enforce when I’m not there) that she gets one small bottle or one small glass a day (roughly 8-10oz). She’s beginning to understand how it isn’t good for you and it’s not actually what your body wants when you’re thirsty, but she’s 6 and it tastes good so it’s a struggle.

I think it’s hard sometimes to remember what exactly pops and sodas do to our bodies, so I borrowed the following information from Experience Life’s article “This Is Your Body on Soda” that breaks down exactly what happens over the course of the hour after we drink a can of pop.

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10 MINUTES

A 12-ounce can of soda delivers about 10 teaspoons of sugar — more than the American Heart Association’s daily recommendation of 6 tsp. per day for women, 9 tsp. for men. Normally you’d gag on such intense sweetness, but phosphoric acid mellows the sugary flavor.

20 MINUTES

Here comes the blood-sugar spike. Your liver reacts quickly to the glucose in your bloodstream, storing as much as it can, but it’s soon at capacity and most of the sugar is converted into fat. (And there’s practically no limit to how much fat your body can store.)

30 MINUTES

Caffeine’s effects are under way: Your pupils dilate. Heart and respiratory rates increase. Your blood pressure rises, causing your liver to release even more sugar into the bloodstream. If you’re tired, you won’t feel it: Caffeine blocks the brain’s adenosine receptors.

40 MINUTES

Dopamine levels rise abnormally, turning on the pleasure centers in your brain and creating a revved-up “high” similar to the one produced by amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin.

50 MINUTES

The diuretic properties of caffeine makes you pee. And because the phosphoric acid in soda binds to calcium, magnesium, and zinc in your body, you’ll soon be flushing those vital nutrients down the toilet.

60 MINUTES

A sugar crash hits you — hard. You’re left feeling cranky, sluggish, thirsty, and ready for another soda, especially if it’s diet. The artificial sweeteners used in diet soft drinks also affect the addiction centers in the brain, keeping you coming back for more.

It’s an awful cycle, right? I find it’s easiest to not want pop if it’s just not around. If you don’t have it, you can’t drink it!

Do you have any soda regulations in your house?

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Door to Door Organics

I recently just found Door to Door Organics. It has been not only an integral part of my grocery shopping, but I don’t have to leave the house to do it. They deliver, TO MY FRONT PORCH, fresh and local veggies, dairy, meat, and dry goods once a week.

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They match you up with the distributing location closest to you (ours is the Michigan hub) and then you can pick from local farms and dairies. The Little Box is the perfect size for my little family of three. As much as I never really cared for vegetables (I was always a meat and pasta kind of girl) I am LOVING having all these colors in my fridge!

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I tweaked this recipe from SnackGirl.com for sweet broccoli the last two nights for dinner. (I used butter instead of oil, and just eyeballed the proportions). It was amazing! I always thought veggies would be something I would tolerate between bites of pasta or hamburger. Imagine my surprise! I’ve also fallen in love with sugar snap peas sautéed in garlic butter.

BONUS: Babykins helped me get all the plants actually planted in the garden (including some heirloom plants from my brother’s friend) and I can’t wait to harvest them in a few months!

Anybody else ever find a recipe that completely changed your relationship with food?

(If you’re interested in joining Door to Door Organics, leave a comment with your email so I can send you a coupon that gets you AND me $15 off!)

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