Tuesday, July 31, 2012

7 totally organic ways to beat fear and anxiety

Stress and Worry Are Human Creations
The best explanation of stress we’ve ever heard comes from Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, PhD, the author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. “If you are a normal mammal,” he notes, “stress is the three minutes of screaming terror on the savanna after which either it’s over with or you’re over with.”
If you’re a human mammal, stress comes not from fear of being eaten but worry about somebody eating your lunch. Unlike other animals, we have a large brain relative to our body size—a brain that worries. And now our worry is triggered by the passive-aggressive boss, the weight of a 30-year mortgage, and the job of caring for children and ill parents at the same time.
No wildebeest would understand these fears, but the perceived threats spark the same bodily survival responses that crocodile attacks do. And they last way longer than a croc’s lunchtime. But you can do something about stress. Search and destroy. Here’s where stress typically strikes and how to strike back.

Stress spot: The brain
Chronic secretion of the stress hormone cortisol damages memory centers, including the hippocampus. When dendrites in the hippocampus shrivel excessively, we can be caught in perpetual stress, triggering anxiety disorders, depression, and margaritas at lunchtime.
The Fix: Don’t be so damned conscientious. A Canadian study of 2,737 workers found that when people thought their poor job performance could have a serious impact on their coworkers, their company, or the environment, job stress increased. Responsible workers who saw their jobs as careers tended to say their jobs were highly stressful, while people who were satisfied with their jobs or who didn’t think of them as careers were less likely to report stress. The lesson: Take a day off. The company won’t go under if you’re out for nine hours. (Note: This does not apply to air-traffic controllers.)
Bonus Instant Feel-Good Fix: Swear. Researchers at England’s University of East Anglia Norwich looked into leadership styles and found that using swear words can reduce stress and boost camaraderie among coworkers.

Stress spot: The neck, head, and back
Pituitaryhypothalamic, and adrenal hormones flood the body, focusing your attention and alertness, sharpening vision, and preparing muscles to take action against a threat. When the perceived danger does not go away, you lose the ability to return to equilibrium.
The Fix: Create a three-legged life. Add balance to your home, your work, and yourself to create a buffer against stress. “If one leg of the stool goes down, you have others to hold you up,” says Munir Soliman, MD, director of the Center for Wellness & Personal Growth at the University of California, San Diego.

Stress spot: The hair
Researchers from the University of Western Ontario may have found a biomarker to measure chronic stress. It’s hair. They took follicle samples from about 100 men, half of whom where hospitalized for heart attacks, and found that hair cortisol was highest in the heart patients. Since hair grows about 1 centimeter a month, researchers used 3-centimeter samples to provide a record of stress levels over the previous three months. Scientists believe the findings bolster the theory that chronic stress may contribute to heart attack just as acute stress does.
The Fix: Focus on somebody besides numero uno. “People who have a problem with anxiety often get lost in measuring and judging themselves,” says Mel Schwartz, a Connecticut-based psychotherapist. “The critical voice is enslaving.” Try focusing on others. Showing respect and appreciation for others has an amazing ability to diffuse obsessive thoughts and behavior caused by preoccupation with the self.

Stress spot: The sympathetic nervous system
A release of norepinephrine causes the heart to beat faster, blood pressure to rise, sweat to stain your shirt, and breathing to quicken to deliver more oxygen and glucose to muscles and tissues. Endorphins make blood vessels constrict to reduce bleeding in case of attack. This is what causes the hairs on the back of your neck and skull to stand on end. While stress hormones help us cope with danger, prolonged pressure can harm the heart and suppress the immune system, which may make us more vulnerable to everything from colds and flu to cancer.
The Fix: Twist yourself into a pretzel and laugh. Laughter Yoga practitioners swear that combining yogic breathing and stretching techniques and forced laughter helps them cope better with life stress. Studies show that, separately, yoga and laughter do stifle stress. For example: Two studies presented at the 2009 American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting found that the blood vessels of people who watched comedy films were more pliable and experienced improved blood flow for up to 24 hours after the chuckles started.

Stress spot: The gut
Increased acids from stress churn your stomach and loosen your bowels (hence the soiling-yourself stress reaction). It can even alter the way the body processes fat, causing you to store more of it in your abdomen.
The Fix: Give yourself a hand. Try acupressure for a quick stress release. Massage the fleshy part between the thumb and index finger of one hand for 30 seconds with the thumb and first two fingers of your other hand. A study at Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that acupressure with lavender oil can reduce stress by up to 39 percent. Two other reports in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine identified 58 clinical trials showing that massage therapy and tai chi practice significantly reduce salivary cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure, and depression.

Stress spot: Your DNA
Yes, stress can screw with your DNA, too! Chronically flooding your body with stress hormones can cause telomeres to shorten. Telomeres are genetic structures that protect the ends of our chromosomes from deterioration, and, if they shorten to a critical length, cells will no longer be able to multiply.
The Fix: Meditate. A recent Harvard Medical School study found that the physiological response from mindful meditation, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, or even repetitive prayer can counteract cellular damage from chronic stress. Breathing lesson: When you feel anxious, disengage your mind by focusing on breathing deeply through your nose so your belly rises before your chest does, then exhale through your mouth. Do this for 5 minutes, concentrating only on your breath.

Stress spot: Your sex life
Women who are distracted and stressed out often can’t orgasm or even enjoy sex. Men may suffer erectile dysfunction when under stress.
The Fix: Unleash the oxytocin. Kissing, hugging, even holding hands can reduce stress because it raises levels of oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding and love, say researchers at the University of North Carolina.
(via Rodale)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grassfed vs Grainfed

-Cattle eat their natural diet of grasses
-No antibiotic
-No hormones
-Cattle roam open pasture to feed
-Cattle naturally take 1.5-2 years to mature

-Cattle eat 90% corn
10% other: forage, cheap high energy feeds like candy, starch, bakery waste, potato waste, pasta, chicken litter, meat processing waste

-Antibiotics: 29 million pounds were used on American livestock in 2009 for illness & growth promotion

-Hormones: Implants or injections are used to increase growth rate by 10-15

-Confined Feedlots: Restricting movement prevents cattle from using energy so that they fatten quicker

-1 year to maturity: The combination of high-energy foods, drugs and confinement turns cows into cheap meat in half the time

Meat Composition of grassfed cows is significantly healthier when analyzed for fat and nutrient content: 
2-4x more Omega 3
5x more CLA*
More vitamins
More minerals

4x more fat per 3oz serving

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Woodstock is a better choice

Organic Gardening recently posted their 7 favorite summer condiments as well as how to create a healthier solution for each one. Woodstock Foods, a Foerstel Design client was a part of the list, earning praise for their organic pickles.

Here is was Organic Gardening had to say about Relish and why Woodstock is a better option:

Revel in relish; just be smart about the source. Many relish products on store shelves contain unnecessary ingredients like artificial (and potentially harmful) food-coloring agents. It’s a food-processing trick that makes food appear fresher than it really is. Scan the label and make sure your favorite relish is free of high-fructose corn syrup, too. The processed sweetener contains significant levels of fructose, which can cause memory problems.

Healthier solution: 
Get a jar of Woodstock Farms Organic pickles and chop them up for a homemade relish effect.

Find Farms In New York City By Looking Up

Back in the 1960s, Lisa Douglas, the Manhattan socialite played by Eva Gabor in the television sitcom “Green Acres,” had to give up her “penthouse view” to indulge her husband’s desire for “farm livin’.”

Mr. Flanner, the president and head farmer of the Brooklyn Grange farming operation, picked greens last week for a restaurant in Brooklyn.

Today, she could have had both. New York City is suddenly a farming kind of town. Almost a decade after the last family farm within the city’s boundaries closed, basil and bok choy are growing in Brooklyn, and tomatoes, leeks and cucumbers in Queens. Commercial agriculture is bound for the South Bronx, where the city recently solicited proposals for what would be the largest rooftop farm in the United States, and possibly the world.

Fed by the interest in locally grown produce, the new farm operations in New York are selling greens and other vegetables by the boxful to organically inclined residents, and by the bushel to supermarket chains like Whole Foods. The main difference between this century and previous ones is location: whether soil-based or hydroponic, in which vegetables are grown in water rather than soil, the new farms are spreading on rooftops, perhaps the last slice of untapped real estate in the city.

“In terms of rooftop commercial agriculture, New York is definitely a leader at this moment,” said Joe Nasr, co-author of “Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture” and a researcher at the Centre for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University in Toronto. “I expect it will continue to expand, and much more rapidly, in the near future.”

For city officials, the rise of commercial agriculture has ancillary benefits, as well. Rooftop farms have the potential to capture millions of gallons of storm water and divert it from the sewer system, which can overflow when it rains. And harvesting produce in the boroughs means fewer trucks on local roadways and lower greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration.

Community gardeners and educators have tended plots and grown food for years. But they have only recently been joined by for-profit companies intent on getting back to the urban land.

Gotham Greens began harvesting from its hydroponic greenhouse on a rooftop in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn last year; it plans to open three more next year in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The existing operation, with 20 employees, grows bok choy, basil and oak leaf lettuce, and sells to retailers like Whole Foods and FreshDirect.

Brooklyn Grange, another farming operation, incorporated with the intention of finding a site in Brooklyn. But two years ago, a one-acre rooftop became available instead in Long Island City, Queens. The partners, led by Ben Flanner, the president and head farmer, spread out 1.2 million pounds of soil and started planting. This spring, Brooklyn Grange finally made good on its name, starting a second farm on a 65,000-square-foot roof at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where more than 100 rows feature pattypan squash, scallions and beefsteak tomatoes.
Mr. Flanner pointed out two benefits to an agricultural aerie — plentiful sun and an absence of pests. “There are a number of parallels with regular agriculture,” he said. “What we don’t have are deer or foxes or rodents.”
One challenge: wind, which can whip between buildings and topple delicate seedlings. “We have to be clever to come up with solutions to reduce the amount of wind on the plants,” he said. “We do a lot of staking and trellising.”

Plans are in the works for even larger operations. In March, BrightFarms, which develops greenhouses near supermarkets to shorten the food-supply chain, announced it would create a sprawling hydroponic greenhouse on a roof in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that is expected to yield a million pounds of produce a year. The chief executive, Paul Lightfoot, said the greenhouse would occupy up to 100,000 square feet, making it the nation’s largest such operation when it opens next year. (Recently, the company reached an agreement with the A&P supermarket chain to sell the Brooklyn produce.)

And last month, the city’s Economic Development Corporation issued a request for proposals for a 200,000-square-foot rooftop farm on a city-owned building on Food Center Drive in Hunts Point, the food-distribution hub in the Bronx. “We’re testing the marketplace,” said Seth W. Pinsky, the corporation’s president. “It was a logical place for a rooftop farm. If we’re successful at Food Center Drive, our hope would be to replicate this elsewhere.”
While there may be a veritable prairie of empty rooftops in the city, not all are suitable for growing crops, Mr. Nasr, of Ryerson University, said. Roofs must be strong enough to accommodate the weight of either soil or a greenhouse, and if they are not, strengthening them can be costly. Access is also a challenge, with some buildings lacking stairs or an elevator to the roof. Not all roofs enjoy full sun, with shadows cast by adjacent buildings. And neighbors wary of increased traffic and noise can be prickly.

“But in New York City,” Mr. Nasr said, “even if you eliminate roofs for all those reasons, you are still left with a large number that could be considered.”

The City Planning Department recently revamped the zoning regulations to encourage green development, including rooftop farms, and the City Council approved the changes. The new rules, called Zone Green, exempt greenhouses on nonresidential buildings from certain height and floor-area limits. Such structures cannot, however, exceed 25 feet in height and must be set back six feet from the edge of the roof.

Amanda M. Burden, the planning commissioner, credited the changes with “creating more places for urban agriculture to take root in a dense, built-up environment.”

Whether the relaxation of the zoning rules will unleash a flood of new proposals remains to be seen. None, so far, are planned for Park Avenue.
(via New York Times)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Eat your fruits and vegetables!

The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. 

The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.

This year the EWG guide has expanded the Dirty Dozen with a Plus category to highlight two crops -- green beans and leafy greens, meaning, kale and collard greens - that did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. But they are not banned and still show up on some food crops.

Commodity crop corn used for animal feed and biofuels is almost all produced with genetically modified (GMO) seeds, as is some sweet corn sold for human consumption. Since GMO sweet corn is not labeled as such in US stores, EWG advises those who have concerns about GMOs to buy organic sweet corn.