December 19, 2016

400 Ahhh, Nuts! [19 Dec 2016]

Nuts get a bad rap. When something goes wrong, we say “Aw, nuts!” with the same meaning as “Aw, rats!”. To show nuts the respect and admiration they deserve, we should instead use the expression “Ahhh, nuts!”.

I previoiusly wrote about the nutritional benefits of nuts in December 2009 (#043) and December 2013 (#245).

Last week natural health author Leslie Beck reported for the Globe and Mail on the results of a large study published this month in BMC Medicine. The study was a meta-analysis of 20 prospective cohort studies from the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia with a total of nearly 820,000 participants. The study looked at nut intake and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes.

What they found is that nuts are even more beneficial than previously known. People eating 20 grams or more of nuts reduced their risk of dying by:
• 29% for coronary heart disease
• 21% for cardiovascular disease
• 39% for diabetes
• 15% for cancer (tree nuts only)
• 52% for respiratory disease, and
• 22% for premature death of all causes.

The study found peanuts were as protective as tree nuts for heart disease and all-cause mortality but not for cancer. A significant reduction in risk of stroke was found with peanuts (37%) but not with tree nuts (11%). Looking at the results another way, the authors estimated that 4.4 million premature deaths annually could be attributed to eating less than 20 grams of nuts daily.

Including nuts in your diet is an easy way to improve your health, especially if you substitute them for less healthy snacks. They are expensive but fortunately we don’t need much – 20 grams or about a handful a day is enough to provide most of the protective benefits found in this study.

Pass the nuts please. Delicious! Ahhh, nuts!

It’s hard to believe that this is my 400th column in nearly 8 years of writing. I hope to continue for at least another 100. Donna and I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy healthy new year.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner

December 12, 2016

399 Cheap Food and Fair Trade [12 Dec 2016]

Last week I discussed examples of food fraud from the 2016 book “Sorting the Beef from the Bull – the Science of Food Fraud Forensics” by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple. One of the factors leading to food fraud is the modern consumer’s unrealistic (the authors called it “delusional”) expectations of what food should cost.

The average American family spent 43% of their income on food in 1900 but a mere 13% in 2013. Most of this decrease in relative food cost can be attributed to the efficiency of conventional food systems (particularly for packaged processed foods). Consumer demand for the cheapest food puts pressure on the retailers, distributors, processors, and ultimately the producers to cut corners wherever possible, sometimes leading to food fraud. In the book’s Foreword, Prof. Chris Elliott of the U. Belfast reported “…a number of food-business operators have told me their biggest dilemma is to decide if they should cheat in the same way as their competitors, or go out of business.”

This effect of underpaying producers and other food-business workers is more serious in undeveloped (usually tropical or sub-tropical) countries where there are fewer options for work, no unions to negotiate for them, and no social safety nets to feed their families while unemployed. One answer to this problem is the fair trade movement.

Fair Trade can be simply defined as “trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries”. Production is free of forced labor, child labor, and unsafe working conditions. Crops are raised through sustainable methods. A floor price is established to protect small producers from market fluctuations. Small independent producers may join together to form co-operatives. To prevent fraudulent claims, fair trade certifiers ensure that standards are met and labeling is accurate. Foods commonly produced with free trade include: handicrafts, cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, coconut oil, bananas and flowers.

Learn more about fair trade at And look for the fair trade symbol on items in your grocery store (if you don’t see any ask the manager). Yes these products will cost more. Yet it’s a small price to pay to share a little of the privilege we enjoy in this country with the workers that produce the food we eat.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 5, 2016

398 Food Fraud [5 Dec 2016]

I am reading a book called “Sorting the Beef from the Bull – the Science of Food Fraud Forensics” by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple (April 2016). The problem of food fraud is much larger than I imagined, costing the food industry world-wide billions of dollars each year and sometimes having serious health, social and environmental effects. The sad truth is we don’t always know what we’re eating, and Canada and the natural health industry are not immune to fraud.

The book discusses various types of food fraud that have been documented, often well organized and on a large scale, and the efforts of scientists to uncover them. Here are some examples:
• Olive oil adulterated with commercial canola oil is blamed for 25,000 serious injuries and over 1,000 deaths in Spain (1981)
• Substitution of cheaper species of fish and shellfish
• Honey diluted with high fructose corn syrup or other cheaper sugars
• Manuka honey which sells at a high premium is often counterfeit
• Melamine added to infant formula in China (2008) resulted in 52,000 hospitalizations and 6 infant deaths (two of the men responsible were executed)
• Sick Irish horses slaughtered and mixed with ground beef in the UK (2013)
• Ground nuts added to spices in North America and Europe (2013)
Mucci Farms of Ontario from 2011-2013 relabelled Mexican bell peppers as “Product of Canada”

To combat this problem, government agencies test foods using sophisticated chemical analyses. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U. of Guelph pioneered the use of DNA analysis to identify species. (Deep budget cuts to CFIA in recent years are undermining this process.)

To be fair, the retailers and even the distributors are often unaware of the adulterations. Processed foods contain dozens of ingredients from many countries and it would be impossible to have them all tested.

One way to reduce the risk of food fraud is to buy local unprocessed foods. Unfortunately “real foods” tend to be more expensive and require more work to prepare at home. But even if the ingredients on processed food labels are accurate, it is still best to avoid them!

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.