Friday, September 27, 2013

Carrot + Zucchini Ribbons + Cilantro Pepita Pesto Recipe

[The Simple Veganista] I have a ton of pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) that I need to use up and thought this was a great way to use them. I also had some cilantro on hand and decided to use that. What I really love about cilantro, besides the lovely flavor, is that it's available in bunches and so easy to find. In general, it's hard to find basil in large amounts enough to make pesto, making cilantro a great alternative to the traditional basil pesto. I also added a small amount of garam masala to this pesto but feel free to omit it if you don't have it on hand or don't care for it. I have yet to use my garam masala and thought why not try it here for something unusual. So I tested it out and found that I rather liked it as it adds an interesting layer of flavor and pairs well with the fresh vegetable ribbons. I even used my left over pesto as a dip for carrot good! But keep in mind that I'm quite strange and can eat the weirdest combinations. So If you feel like experimenting, go for it...if in doubt, leave it out. I also added in some hemp hearts as well, two tablespoons or so, if you have some on hand this is a great place to use them!

The ribbons are easy to create. I used a mandolin to ribbon the zucchini and a peeler to do the carrots. It's best to use smaller sized zucchini so the mandolin will be wider. This will help keep the zucchini edges cleaner looking instead of scoured. But do it however your comfortable and use whatever tools you have. If you only have a peeler you can just as easily use that to ribbon the zucchini too. You can also simply use a julienne tool for thinner ribbons or julienne everything by hand if need be.

Below is a final look with a light dusting of almond parmesan (the best topping ever when I'm not using sriracha!). And if you want to see what my 'real' bowl looked like when I sat to eat this wonderful bowl of raw goodness after all was done, scroll on down to the bottom. It's real life style, the way I truly eat!

Carrot + Zucchini Ribbons + Cilantro Pepita Pesto


    3 large carrots
    3 small zucchini
    pepitas, for serving
    mineral salt & cracked pepper to taste
    almond parmesan, for serving

Cilantro Pepita Pesto

    1 large bunch cilantro (3 cups loosely packed), ends removed, leaves and small stems ok
    1/3 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), toasted or raw
    2 tablespoons hemp hearts, optional
    2 cloves garlic
    1 small jalepeno, seed removed (leave a few seeds for heat if you like)
    3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    juice of 1 large lemon
    1/2 teaspoon himilayan salt
    1/2 teaspoon garam masala, optional

Start with your pesto, place pepitas in your food processor and pulse a few times until seeds are broken down fairly well. Add remaining ingredients and blend until well combined and fairly smooth, stopping to scrap down the sides as needed. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin if needed (no need to add more oil unless you want). Taste for flavor and season to taste. Set aside.

Peel the outer layer of your carrots and discard. Using the peeler, ribbon the carrots. Wash your zucchini, cut the ends off and using a mandoline, or tool of choice, ribbon the zucchini. You can just as well julienne your carrots and zucchini with a julienne tool or by hand if you would rather have thinner strands.

In a medium size bowl, place carrots and zucchini, add a few spoonfuls of pesto and mix to combine. You will have pesto leftover unless you really love the stuff and use it all!

Plate your ribbons, top with a sprinkle of pepitas and a nice dusting of almond parmesan. For a little extra color you could add some red pepper flakes to the top.

Serves two.

Store leftover pesto in an air tight container in the fridge for up to a week. Use the pesto for pasta, as a dip for vegetables, as a spread for sandwiches, thin it out with water or lemon juice and make a dressing for salads, etc. Lot's of ways to use pesto.

Notes: Use almonds in place of pepitas if needed. I used raw pepitas instead of toasting them.

For the garam marsla, if pairing this with regular pasta I would leave it out. It pairs well with the freshness of the carrot & zucchini ribbons. Also, I found that it tasted fine with almond parmesan. But like I said earlier, I can eat some really unusual combinations. If you feel like experimenting, try it out...if in doubt, skip it.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

10 Good Reasons To Go Organic

1. Organic products meet stringent standards

Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.

2. Organic food tastes great!

It’s common sense – well-balanced soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals.

3. Organic production reduces health risks

Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth and water that sustain us.

4. Organic farms respect our water resources

The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources.

5. Organic farmers build healthy soil

Soil is the foundation of the food chain. The primary focus of organic farming is to use practices that build healthy soils.

6. Organic farmers work in harmony with nature

Organic agricultural respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem: wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.

7. Organic producers are leaders in innovative research

Organic farmers have led the way, largely at their own expense, with innovative on-farm research aimed at reducing pesticide use and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the environment.

8. Organic producers strive to preserve diversity

The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of the most pressing environmental concerns. The good news is that many organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing unusual varieties for decades.

9. Organic farming helps keep rural communities healthy

USDA reported that in 1997, half of U.S. farm production came from only 2% of farms. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can command fair prices for crops.

10. Organic abundance – Foods and non-foods alike!

Now every food category has an organic alternative. And non-food agricultural products are being grown organically – even cotton, which most experts felt could not be grown this way.

Healthy Snacks Made of Real Foods

Tasty, nutrient-packed munchies that satisfy your craving without busting your diet.

What do you do when you are starving for something to eat in-between meals? For me, I will start grabbing anything that is edible around me or in the fridge. Fully aware of my tendency to scavenge, I always make it a point to stock my refrigerator only with healthy snacks, so that when hunger pangs strike, I will always have access to foods that aren’t just satisfying but also healthful.

Even if you are on a diet, you shouldn’t stop snacking. Going too long without eating can cause your blood sugar to drop too low, leading to irritability, foggy brain and reckless eating. For some, very low blood sugar levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia, can even trigger emotional stress, such as panic attacks.

To balance your blood sugar, eat every three to four hours throughout the day. But avoid gorging on high-fat and high-calorie snacks. Instead, opt for low-calorie snack foods that are nutrient-packed, like the ones I will show you later. These snacks are easy to carry around, full of antioxidants, and some are even powerful natural anti-inflammatories by themselves.

But a few cautions on snacks. Snacks are, well, snacks. They aren’t meant to replace regular meals. No matter how nutritious they may be, don’t go overboard with them and consume so much that you leave no room for well-balanced meals.

Though this is common knowledge, it is still worth repeating: Whenever possible, avoid snacks that contained preservatives (read: organic), added sugar, colorings and other additives. Check the food labels because they disclose valuable information about the food you will be putting into your mouth.

Lastly, here is a money-saving tip: Buy your favorite snacks in bulk and store unused ones in the refrigerator. It is much cheaper than buying individual packs from health food stores.

Happy snacking!

Golden Berries

Also called cape gooseberry and physalis, each golden berry is yellowish orange in color and comes enclosed in a paper-like husk that covers the fruit like a miniature lantern. In folk medicine, golden berries are used to treat a variety of ailments, including asthma, hepatitis, rheumatism and even cancer. A few studies on golden berries, such as the one carried out by Taiwan’s Chia-Nan University of Pharmacy and Science, have also found extracts of these cherry-sized berries to exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Increasingly, fresh golden berries are also used as exotic garnish for cakes, pastries and other desserts.


Mulberries come in different colors, depending on the type of mulberry tree they are harvested from. There are white, red and black mulberry fruits and each tastes slightly different from one another. Black mulberries are generally considered the best due to a good balanced of sweetness and tartness. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, mulberries have traditionally been used to nourish the blood and to treat constipation. Mulberries contain resveratrol, the antioxidant found in grapes and red wine, as well as vitamin C, iron and trace elements. But avoid gorging on mulberries, as ingesting large quantity of these sweet berries may cause undesirable side effects. It is interesting to note that the leaves of white mulberry are the only food source for silkworm larvae, which is cultivated for their silk.

Goji Berries

Also known as wolfberries, goji berries have been used as a form of medicine as well as food for thousands of years by the Chinese. Traditionally used as an eye tonic, modern scientific studies have now attributed the vision-protecting properties of goji berries to the high-levels of zeaxanthin, a form of carotenoid critical for healthy eyes, found in these small fruits. Goji berries are also packed with vitamin C, trace minerals, protein, amino acids, fats and other phytochemicals, earning them the superfruit moniker.


Blueberries are well-known for their ability to douse chronic inflammation. Studies that have associated blueberries with better vision, improved memory, reduced intestinal inflammation and lower cancer risk can be traced to these miracle berries’ potent anti-inflammatory properties. The disease-preventing effects could be due to the anthocyanins, resveratrol and other phytochemicals found abundance in blueberries.


A staple food in the Middle East, dried dates are enjoyed everywhere now because of their wide availability and of course, their delicious sweetness. There are well over hundred types of dates, but dates can generally be categorized into three different groups: soft, semi-dry and dry. Besides containing high levels of energy-giving sugar, dates are also high in filling fiber, just what you need to stop a late afternoon hunger pang. But due to their high sugar content, go easy on them, especially if you are watching your blood glucose levels.


Do you know that the fig is called “fruit without flower” in Chinese (无花果)? However, to be exact, fig is not a fruit but a combination of the flowers and seeds of the fig tree. A potassium powerhouse, figs are godsend if your diet contains high levels of sodium. Low potassium intake combined with a sodium-rich diet has been associated with high blood pressure. Figs are popular all over the world due to their refreshing sweetness. They are rich in dietary fiber and are a sweet source of calcium and magnesium. Like other dried fruits, figs also provide good amounts of antioxidants for people who adore them.


Looking somewhat like a peach, apricot is another fruit, other than fig, that has been cultivated by humans since ancient times. Apricots are rich in vitamin A and beta carotene, which are especially beneficial for the eyes. The high fiber content in apricots also make them a good choice for those with constipation.

Trail Mix

If you are looking a snack that contains a good mixed of proteins, carbohydrates, antioxidants as well as fats, then you won’t go wrong with a high-quality trail mix. Combining selected dried fruits, nuts and/or seeds, trail mix gives you the best of everything: the sweetness and tartness of dried fruits as well as the crunchiness of nuts and seeds.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Top 10 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

Stay clear of these inflammation-causing foods to instantly upgrade your health.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, about 12.9 million people worldwide died from some form of cardiovascular disease in 2004. Each year, the World Cancer Research Fund estimates that some eight million people died from cancer. Heart disease and cancer, the deadly manifestation of chronic inflammation, are expected to remain as the leading causes of death in developed countries for many years to come.

But study after study shows that the risk of heart disease and cancer are modifiable by our lifestyle choices which include the food we choose to eat each day. With every bite we take, we’re either balancing the pro- and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body, or tipping the scale to one end.

To shift the balance to your favor, other than incorporating more natural anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, it is also equally important to avoid or cut down on foods which are known to promote inflammation. Here, we look at the top ten foods which set the stage for inflammatory diseases:

1. Sugars

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Excessive sugar intake causes tooth decay and has been linked to increased risks of obesity, inflammation and chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Recently, it has also finally been proven that sugar, as well as dairy, are the causes of acne.
Find them in: Sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks, fruit drinks and punches are some of the major sources of dietary sugars that many have overlooked. Do you know that drinking a can of Coke is as good as sucking ten sugar cubes? Other obvious sugar-loaded foods to avoid or at least limit include pastries, desserts, candies and snacks. And when you are looking out for sugar in the ingredients list, note that sugar has many names: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, sorghum syrup and sucrose are some of the creative names used.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Got a sweet tooth? Opt for natural sweeteners like stevia, honey, or blackstrap molasses to flavor beverages and foods modestly. Natural sugars found in fresh or dried fruits and fruit preserves with no added sugar are also great choices. Not only do they give you the sweetness you crave, fruits also supply you with vitamins, antioxidants and fibers that you won’t find in sugary foods and drinks. Dates, figs, persimmons, kiwis, tangerines and various types of berries are some of the natural healthy snacks you can sink your teeth into.

2. Common Cooking Oils

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Common vegetable cooking oils used in many homes and restaurants have very high omega-6 fatty acids and dismally low omega-3 fats. A diet consisting of a highly imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratiop romotes inflammation and breeds inflammatory diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Find them in: Polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as grape seed, cottonseed, safflower, corn and sunflower oils. These industrial vegetable oils are also commonly used to prepare most processed foods and takeaways.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Replace your omega-6-saturated cooking oils with macadamia oil, extra virgin olive oil, or other edible oils with a more balanced omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio. Macadamia oil, for instance, has an almost one-to-one ratio of omega-6:3 fats, and it is also rich in oleic acid, a heart-healthy, monounsaturated fatty acid.

3. Trans Fats

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Trans fatty acids are notorious for their double whammy effect: they increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, while lowering levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol. But that is not all they can do. They have also been found to promote inflammation, obesity and resistance to insulin, laying the ground for degenerative illnesses to take place.
Find them in: Deep fried foods, fast foods, commercially baked goods and those prepared with partially hydrogenated oil, margarine and/or vegetable shortening. Note that items that list 0g trans fats on the label may still contain some amount of these toxic fats. This is because in the US, the government allows items containing less than 0.5g of trans fats to be declared as trans-fat free. Commercially prepared peanut butter is one good example. Your best bet is to read the ingredients list and make sure partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening is not used.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Look for alternative products that contain no trans fats, and that do not have partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening in the ingredients list. When in doubt, assume that all commercially prepared foods contain trans fats unless stated otherwise.

4. Dairy Products

Pro-inflammatory Agent: As much as 60% of the world’s population cannot digest milk. In fact, researchers think that being able to digest milk beyond infancy is abnormal, rather than the other way round. Milk is also a common allergen that can trigger inflammatory responses, such as stomach distress, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, acne, hives and breathing difficulties in susceptible people.
Find them in: Milk and dairy products are as pervasive as foods containing partially hydrogenated oil or omega-3-deficient vegetable oil. Apart from obvious milk products like butter and cheese, foods with hidden dairy content include breads, cookies, crackers, cakes, cream sauces and boxed cereals. Scanning the ingredients list is still the safest way to suss out milk.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Kefir and unsweetened yogurt are acceptable in moderation for those who are not allergic to milk. They are easier on the stomach as the lactose and proteins in the milk have been broken down by beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts.

5. Feedlot-Raised Meat

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Commercially produced meats are feed with grains like soy beans and corn, a diet that is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids but low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Due to the small and tight living environment, these animals also gain excess fat and end up with high saturated fats. Worse, to make them grow faster and prevent them from getting sick, they are also injected with hormones and fed with antibiotics. The result is one piece of meat which you and I shouldn’t be eating.
Find them in: Unless otherwise stated, most, if not all, beef, pork and poultry you can find in the supermarkets and restaurants come from feedlot farms.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Organic, free-range animals that are fed a natural diet such as grasses instead of grains and hormones contain more omega-3 fats. Having more room to roam freely, they are also leaner and contain less saturated fats.

6. Red Meat & Processed Meat

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that red meat contains a molecule that humans don’t naturally produce called Neu5Gc. After ingesting this compound, the body develops anti-Neu5Gc antibodies – an immune response that may trigger chronic inflammatory response. Low-grade, simmering inflammation that won’t go away has been linked to cancer and heart disease. The link between processed meat consumption and cancer is even stronger. In the 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, processed meat has been stated as a convincing cause of cancers of the colon and rectum, and possibly of the esophagus and lungs too. Processed meat includes animal products that have been smoked, cured, salted or chemically preserved.
Find them in: Common red meats are beef, lamb and pork, while processed meats include ham, sausage and salami.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: You don’t need to avoid red meat totally, though the same thing cannot be said for processed meat. No amount of processed meat is safe. Replace the bulk of your red meat with organic vegetables, poultry and fish, and relegate red meat to a weekly treat. When you do eat red meat, remember to choose lean cuts and preferably, that of grass-fed animals. To reduce the formation of heat-generated food contaminants, it is also advisable not to overcook your meat and use moist heat cooking like stewing and boiling more often than high-temperature dry heat methods such as grilling and frying.

7. Alcohol

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Regular high consumption of alcohol has been known to cause irritation and inflammation of the esophagus, larynx (voice box) and liver. Over time, the chronic inflammation promotes tumor growth and gives rise to cancer at the sites of repeated irritation.
Find them in: Beers, ciders, liquors, liqueurs, and wines.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: A refreshing and thirst-quenching glass of pure, filtered water, anyone? :) How about a cup of anti-aging and anti-inflammatory jasmine green tea? If you find the idea of swapping ethanol for water or tea implausible, at least limit your consumption to no more than one drink a day.

8. Refined Grains

Pro-inflammatory Agent: A lot of the grains we eat nowadays are refined. They are devoid of fiber and vitamin B compared to unpolished and unrefined grains that still have the bran, germ and the aleurone layer intact. This makes refined grains as good as refined sugars, which are practically empty calories. And like refined sugars, refined grains have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed grains and when they are consistently consumed, can hasten the onset of degenerative diseases like cancer, coronary disease and diabetes.
Find them in: Products made from refined grains are almost everywhere. The common ones are: white rice, white flour, white bread, noodles, pasta, biscuits and pastries. To make things worse, many products with refined grains undergo further processing to enhance their taste and look, and are often loaded with excess sugar, salt, artificial flavors and/or partially hydrogenated oil in the process. A prime example is boxed cereals which contain substantial amounts of added sugar and flavorings.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Go for minimally processed grains if you are not gluten intolerant or allergic to grains. If you are an avid bread or pastry maker, invest in a grain mill to produce your own flour. It will be much fresher than the stale grain found in stores. When buying cereals or other products made from grains, don’t take the words on the packaging for granted. Just because the box says whole grains, it does not mean the grains inside are 100% intact. The problem is due to a lack of an internationally accepted definition for the word ‘whole grain’. When in doubt, if it does not look close to its natural state, don’t buy it.

9. Artificial Food Additives

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Some artificial food additives like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) reportedly trigger inflammatory responses, especially in people who are already suffering from inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Find them in: Only packaged foods contain artificial food additives. If you need to buy them, read the labels carefully and weigh your risks. If you order Chinese takeaways, make sure you have the option to ask for no MSG. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Besides limiting the consumption of processed foods, use anti-inflammatory herbs, spices or natural sweeteners to add flavor to your dishes instead of relying on food additives.

10.  [Fill in the Blank]

Pro-inflammatory Agent: Why is this blank? Because it is meant for you to fill in with the food that you are sensitive to. Many people are sensitive to certain foods but are totally unaware of it. Unlike food allergies whereby symptoms usually come fast and furious, symptoms caused by food intolerance may take a longer time to manifest. Consequently, when symptoms of food intolerance do appear, they are often brushed off as common minor ailments such as tiredness and headaches. But repeated, long-term exposure to food that irritates can cause inflammation and lead to chronic disease.
Find them in: Common food allergens are gluten, milk, nuts, eggs and nightshade vegetables. Contrary to common belief, it is possible to develop an allergy to the foods that you eat often.
Inflammation-dousing Substitute: If you suspect that a particular food may be responsible for your food intolerant response, try avoiding it completely for about two weeks and monitor your reaction. At the end of the abstinence period, re-introduce the food back into your diet. If you are in fact incompatible with it, you should be able to notice the difference in how you feel easily.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Best and Worst Ways to Cook Vegetables

Think a raw-veggie diet is the best way to go for optimal nutrition? Think again. Cooking vegetables helps to soften their tough fibrous exteriors and loosen up all the nutritional good stuff that lies inside. In fact, some vegetables, such as tomatoes, are actually more healthful if you eat them cooked, because the process of cooking them boosts their levels of the potent antioxidant lycopene. The only problem is, not all cooking methods are the same. Some boost nutrient content; some take it away. Some add unwanted fat, while others add the crucial amount for your body to absorb all the nutrients in vegetables.

Here’s what you need to know about cooking your veggies for optimum nutrition:

1. Microwaving

When in doubt, microwave your veggies for maximum antioxidant preservation. According to a Spanish study of how various cooking methods impact vegetable antioxidant capacity, microwaves reign supreme in prepping vegetables to retain their nutrients. Exception: Keep cauliflower out of the microwave; it loses more than 50 percent of its antioxidants if nuked.       

2. Griddling

Beets, celery, onions, Swiss chard, and green beans cook particularly well on the griddle—yes, that pan you pull out only for Sunday-morning pancakes. Griddles allow vegetables to retain as many antioxidants as microwaving, according to the Spanish researchers. Word of caution: Griddles are often coated in nonstick chemicals that make cooking and cleaning convenient but may contain toxins linked to cancer. Shop for one without the coating, or use a thick frying pan with no oil.
4. Baking

Baking, or roasting, is hit-or-miss. Based on the study results, bake your artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, and peppers, all of which retained their antioxidant values, but not your carrots, Brussels sprouts, leeks, cauliflower, peas, zucchini, onions, beans, celery, beets, and garlic, which all saw decreases in nutrient levels. Where baking really shines is with green beans, eggplant, corn, Swiss chard, and spinach, all of which saw their antioxidant levels increase after baking. Toss a handful of those veggies into your next casserole. 

4. Frying

It’s probably no surprise that this method fails the test when it comes to antioxidants and nutrition levels. In addition to adding way too much fat to your meal, it caused a loss of between 5 and 50 percent of each vegetable’s nutrients.
5. Pressure cooking and boiling

Generally speaking, don’t use these methods if you want to retain antioxidants in your vegetables. “In short, water is not the cook’s best friend when it comes to preparing vegetables,” says lead researcher A.M. Jimenez-Monreal. Peas, cauliflower, and zucchini are particularly susceptible to losing nutrients through boiling. If you do need to boil your vegetables, save the nutrient-rich boiling water and use it the next time you make a soup or sauce.

Of course there are always exceptions, and in this case, it’s carrots. A 2008 study from Italy found that boiling carrots boosted their carotenoid content more so than steaming or frying them.

6. Steaming

Those same Italian researchers found that steaming is the best method for preserving antioxidants found in broccoli and zucchini. But contrary to what you may think, this may not be the healthiest way to prep vegetables anyway. Many of the vitamins and nutrients in vegetables are fat soluble, meaning your body absorbs them better in the presence of fat. If you prefer steaming your vegetables, toss them with a small amount of olive oil before serving to boost nutrient absorption.

7. Sautéing

None of the studies on nutrient levels and cooking techniques have included sautéing vegetables over high heat in a little bit of oil. However, the process of sautéing is similar to that of microwaving: cooking your vegetables over high heat in a short amount of time. That minimizes nutrient loss, and the oil in which you’re sautéing them helps your body absorb more of the nutrients.

Biotech Attack GMO Labeling in WA—Organic Brands Hide Behind Lobby Group

Proposition I-522, a citizen’s initiative on the ballot on November 5 in Washington state, would mandate clear labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages.  It has become the latest battleground pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar agribusiness corporations.

Recent polling indicates strong support for the Washington state informational labeling measure. But a flood of money to fight the ballot initiative has rolled in from Monsanto, DuPont, and other biotechnology interests and food manufacturers, now totaling over $11 million, according to Washington state election records.

“Consumers might be surprised to find out that some of their favorite organic and natural brands, hiding behind their lobbyist, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, are contributing bushel baskets of cash towards thwarting the consumer’s right to know what is in their food in Washington,” says Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute.

Cornucopia has released an infographic designed to inform consumers and let them make purchasing decisions reflecting their values. Many organic and natural food manufacturers are financially supporting the GMO labeling effort. They and other proponents are identified in Cornucopia’s infographic along with the biotech and agribusiness concerns fighting the labeling effort.

Last year, a similar GMO labeling measure was narrowly defeated in California, with Monsanto and its allies pouring more than $46 million into their campaign and outspending labeling supporters by five to one. Many prominent organic and natural brands were outed in California by Cornucopia for their opposition to GMO food labeling.

Just recently, the powerful Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) publicly scrubbed its website of its members, a move thought by many to be an effort to mask which corporations/brands helped underwrite the $2.2 million already donated by the GMA against I-522. They haven’t, however, been able to remove this web archive detailing their membership.

“They are obviously trying to hide their membership,” says Trudy Bialic, Director of Public Affairs for PCC Natural Markets, a Seattle-based, member-owned grocery cooperative. PCC has been working on GMO issues since 1994 when rBGH — a genetically engineered growth hormone for dairy cattle — was a contentious issue.

Assessing the dollars fueling both campaigns, Bialic observes that “not one individual is listed as a contributor on the ‘No’ side, while the ‘Yes’ side is being funded by thousands of individuals.” PCC itself has contributed $198,344 in support of I-522.

GMA spokesman Brain Kennedy told Politico, a Washington, DC publication covering politics, that “GMA fully supports the No on 522 Campaign in Washington State, and will continue to support the campaign’s effort to defeat this costly, confusing and unnecessary proposal.”

Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food at the state level is viewed as a watershed event by many industry observers, given the inaction on the popular proposal at the federal level. Monsanto, its biotech allies, and GMA in particular, have been credited for bottlenecking the federal labeling law.

“Just as we’ve observed in Europe, where labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is mandatory, we fully expect that, when given a choice, consumers will choose organic or non-GMO products,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia. “And the industrial food lobby is fully cognizant of this — that’s why they’re fighting like hell against this grassroots effort.”

One leading organic manufacturer that has been actively promoting and funding a “yes on I-522″ vote is Nutiva. “We support I-522 because everyone has a right to know what’s in our food,” says John W Roulac, Nutiva’s Founder and CEO. Roulac has been working hard to convince other corporate executives to step up as well. He has committed Nutiva to donating $75,000.

Other prominent commercial backers of state citizen initiatives, viewed as heroes in the organic movement, include Nature’s Path, the prominent cereal manufacturer, and the soap manufacturer, Dr. Bronner’s. Additional organizations throwing their financial weight behind the consumer’s right to know include the health website and the Organic Consumers Association.

The biggest single donor to the “No” campaign is Monsanto. The biotech giant has contributed $4.8 million — an amount greater than all of the funds collected by the right-to-know forces.

“Consumers are increasingly interested in ‘voting with their forks,’ and many want to support companies that share their values,” notes Jason Cole, a researcher for Cornucopia who compiled the data for the infographic. “We know that many organic and ‘natural’ brands, owned by corporate agribusiness, fought the California food labeling effort. We believe, until it is shown otherwise, that many of these same companies are likely clandestinely supporting a defeat of the Washington state effort by funneling their dollars through the Grocery Manufacturers Association. ”


Other “Yes” vote campaign donors include Organic Consumer’s Fund, Health Resources, Presence Marketing, Food and Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, WashPIRG, GFA/Boulder Brands, Annie’s, Food Democracy Now, Amy’s Kitchen, Lundberg Family Farms, Clif Bar, CROPP Cooperative (Organic Valley), UNFI, Inc., Wehan Farms, Stonyfield Farm, Whole Foods, Diamond Foods, Earthbound Farms, Turtle Mountain, Environmental Working Group, Institute for Responsible Technology, Freeland Foods/Go Raw, Jimbo’s Natural Family Inc., Brad’s Raw Chips, Suja Life LLC, Van’s International Foods, Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics, Jobbertown Media, Wallaby Yogurt, Eden Foods, Attune Foods, Back to Nature, Barney and Co, Dale and Thomas Popcorn, Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products, Califia Farms LP, Mamma Chia, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Organic Foods Express, Wholesome Sweeteners, Good Earth Natural Foods, Straus Family Creamery, Full Circle Farm, Skagit Valley Food Coop, Springfield Creamery, Earth Island, Equal Exchange, The Natural Grocery, Traditional Medicinals, Nutritional Therapy Association, Rhythm Superfoods, Marlene’s Market and Deli, Café Press, Raw Foods International, Nature’s Best, Ben and Jerry’s, Intellicomp/Seasnax, Skagit Valley Food Co-op, Wisdom Natural Brands, Bragg Live Foods, Turtle Island, Good Karma, Organically Grown Company, FoodState Inc., Park Slope Food Coop, Endangered Species Chocolate, Sky Valley Foods, Glutino, Northbest Natural Products, Wild Brine, Ocean Beach Organic Food Coop, The Food Coop (Port Townsend, WA), Essential Living Foods, Scratch and Peck Feeds, Raven’s Journey, and Experience Health.

Major opponents of Washington’s food labeling initiative also include Bayer CropScience ($591,654), DuPont ($3,420,189), and Dow AgroSciences ($29,531).
[via Cornucopia]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

10 Foods You Think Are Healthy – But Are Not

We are a nation of dieters. We try new fads and new products. We listen to promises of fast and easy weight loss. We also have so many food options that confusion about what’s healthy and what isn't is the norm – from cookies with vitamins to drinks that will help you lose fat. Here are 10 foods you should cross off your “healthy” list.

Souped-Up Drinks

There are hundreds of “health” drink options on the market today. You can find drinks filled with vitamins, probiotics and even fiber. But how do they truly stack up when it comes to meaningful weight loss?

If they’ve got more than 1 to 2 ingredients, my advice is to skip it. That’s because any drink with various ingredients is likely to either have added calories in the form of simple sugars, and if it’s sweet but has no calories, it’s got artificial sweeteners, which aren't great for your waistline, either. Recent studies are linking artificial sweeteners with vascular events and even increases in metabolic syndrome. When it comes to drinks, think simple – water, coffee, tea – and cheap!

Premade Smoothies

That premade or store-bought smoothie you think is so healthy may in fact have more calories than a cheeseburger! Smoothies can have as much as 650 to 1000 calories in them due to the extreme portions of fruit, vegetables, and, often times, added simple sugars and syrups. We feel more comfortable getting larger sizes of smoothies because they contain plant-based nutrients our bodies need, but as with anything, you can overdo it.

Trail Mix

Ah, the ease of taking a handful of trail mix from a bag for a quick snack on your way out the door. Ease, yes. Low in calories, no. Although healthy trail mix is possible (ones made with just nuts, some dark chocolate, and some dried apricots is one option), most of the versions we are buying at the store are loaded with candy-coated pieces, yogurt-covered raisins, sesame sticks and deep-fried banana chips. If you put your hand in the bag twice, you're looking at almost 600 calories chock-full of simple sugars, trans fat and refined carbohydrates!

Frozen Diet Entrées

These are typically loaded with sodium. And while they may be be low in calories, they’re also low in nutrients (for example, refined grains may be used instead of whole grains). These frozen meals are a great example of quick convenient food that provides no bang for your nutritional buck.


Many energy, fiber and protein bars are about two steps away from a candy bar! We’re often lured in by promises of high fiber or protein, but other than these added-in nutrients, there’s not much else. Want fiber and protein? Make your own energy bars at home or have some string cheese or an apple instead! I promise you it’s a much better option if you’re trying to get back into your high-school jeans.


Trying to be “good,” so you have a bran muffin over a doughnut every morning? You should have just had the doughnut. Most commercially sold bran muffins contain about 800 calories of pure sugar and fat, well above the calorie count of many traditional cake doughnut. While I’m definitely not advocating consumption of doughnuts for breakfast, I am pointing out that sometimes what we think is “healthy” is actually far worse for us than foods we know are NOT healthy. A simple fix: Read the nutritional information! It may stop you from making a huge diet mistake.

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt seems so much better than ice cream. In the world of saturated fat, it is – but in terms of calories and simple sugars, they’re closer than you think. Once we load up the frozen yogurt with sugar- and fat-laden toppings, it’s pretty much equal to its ice-cream counterparts!

Fat-Free Sweets

Fat-free cookies and cakes are deceiving. People think that “fat-free” means “calorie-free,” so they tend to eat more than usual. Further, the sugar replaces the fat in these products so you’re still getting a high number of calories.


For most (but not all), a teeny tiny amount of granola will give you a wallop of trans fats and sugar – both have been shown to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke – and calories. Plus, the portions are so small that we tend not to be satisfied with the initial bowl and continue to fill the bowl until the milk is gone … and then add a little more milk, what I like to call the vicious cereal cycle.

Nut Butters

Peanuts, walnuts and cashews are amazing, and so are their healthy fats. They’ve been shown to help boost heart health and keep weight down, so why would you take some of the fat out and replace it with sugar and saturated or trans fat? When it comes to nut butters, stick with options that have one to two ingredients; for example, peanuts or peanuts and salt. Once you go beyond that, your health food has just become unhealthy.
[via Dr. Oz]

Planting a Fall Garden the Easy Way

Fall doesn’t have to be a time in your garden when your bountiful summer crops simply start to slow down. In fact, in most areas of the country, fall can be one of the most productive times of year in your garden. Many crops thrive in the cooler weather of autumn, and even into winter with a bit of protection. Think spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, radishes, broccoli, kale, chard, mustard greens — the list goes on!

One main question gardeners have about planting a fall garden is, “When should I plant?” No gardener wants to spend time adding compost and putting in new crops, only to have winter’s frosty chill come along and stall or kill the plants before they’ve produced harvestable yields.

In steps a tool we’ve been raving about for a few years now: the Vegetable Garden Planner. This online tool allows you to create a snazzy digital plan of your fall garden. You draw your beds, click on whatever crops you want to grow, and arrange them in your garden. The tool automatically spaces the crops for you. Then, you click on the “Plant List” button within the Garden Planner, and it tells you the window of time in which to plant each crop based on your exact location (you plug in your ZIP code when you begin), along with an expected harvest window for each.

New to the Garden Planner this year are various “garden objects” you can place in your plan. Especially useful for fall gardening are the season-extension devices you can add. Choose from hoop houses, cold frames, row covers, greenhouses, heated greenhouses and more. Just place whatever devices you’re using in your garden directly over the crops you plan to protect. The possible planting times and harvest windows will adjust for those crops.

In the image above, I’ve added a small hoop house over the left garden bed. Inside the hoop house, I’m growing spinach, kale and leaf lettuce. I’ve also added a small cold frame next to my shed, off the right. In the cold frame, I’ve indicated that I’ll be growing some mustard greens. If you like, you can add labels such as “hoop house” or “cold frame” next to these objects.

Of course, other crops were in these same beds earlier in the year — and that’s OK. For each crop you add to your garden plan, you can specific exactly which months it will be in the ground. When you remove summer crops such as zucchini and add some fall crops in the same spot, you just make those timing adjustments right in the Planner. The tool even tells you which crop family each crop belongs to, and warns you if you’re about to violate crop-rotation practices. You can see in the plan above that the kale, cabbage and mustard greens all have a light green shadow around them. The size of the shadow indicates how much space these crops will take up in your garden, and the color of the shadow tells you the crop family — in this case, that these are all brassicas. These features are so cool — and save me a lot of time!

If you live in an area with HOT summers — meaning spring and fall are definitely your prime growing seasons—you can tell the Garden Planner to “split” your seasons. When you do this, you’ll get two sets of planting windows and harvest windows: one for early in the year and one for late in the year. Fall gardeners can take advantage of this feature, too. If you want to plant lettuce, for example, in spring and in fall, just “split” your seasons to get two recommended planting times for the year.

For more fall gardening tips, see Grow Your Best Fall Garden. Happy gardening! We wish you bountiful harvests in every season.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

15 Easy Ways to Detoxify Your Body Today

Our bodies are surprisingly good at detoxification but these processes can easily become overwhelmed due to the volume of toxins to which we’re exposed from our air, water, food, pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs, and many other sources.

These detoxification processes also rely on many critical nutrients (you’ll discover which ones below) to function properly. Fortunately, there are many easy things you can do to help your body eliminate harmful toxins. Here are 15 easy ways to detoxify today based on the book, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan:
  1. Eat pectin-rich organic apples. Pectin binds to toxins in the intestines to escort them out of the body.
  2. Drink a freshly-made veggie juice daily. This can be as easy as throwing a couple of handfuls of leafy greens into a blender with some frozen berries and water.
  3. Drink a large glass of purified water with the juice of one fresh lemon in the morning. Lemons have over 20 proven anti-cancer compounds.
  4. Eat blueberries daily. They are rich in anthocyanins that reduce inflammation in the body and brain, as well as help reduce allergies and excess weight.
  5. Remember to breathe. Oxygen kills bacteria, viruses, and helps us to feel more energized. Breathe deeply as much as possible.
  6. Eat at least a half cup of organic legumes daily. If they cause you gas, build up slowly and add a digestive enzyme with cellulase (breaks down the fiber in beans). Fiber in beans helps keep the bowels eliminating properly.
  7. Find the positive in every day. Smile and laugh. A positive attitude reduces the number of stress chemicals in the body. And, as the adage says, “laughter is the best medicine.”
  8. Take turmeric daily (a teaspoon in a small glass of water), added to soups or stews, or in capsule form. It contains the phytonutrient curcumin that is one of the most powerful liver protectors and healers. The liver is largely responsible for detoxification.
  9. Eat more raw fruits and vegetables. They contain enzymes that aid digestion and improve nutrient absorption. Many nutrients are needed for efficient detoxification, including: beta carotene, folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B12, pyridoxine, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, copper, germanium, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, sulphur, and zinc, among others.
  10. Switch from chemical cleaning products to natural ones. Chemical cleaning products contain toxins like formaldehyde, chlorine, petroleum products, ammonia, perchloroethylene (“perc”), and many other harmful chemicals that research links to cancer, skin conditions, asthma, and other serious health conditions. Baking soda, vinegar, or orange oil work well. No chemical cleaner removes stains as well as orange oil.
  11. Eat at least three of the best detoxifying foods daily: broccoli, garlic, spinach, cabbage, sprouts, blueberries, and ginger.
  12. Drink plenty of pure water to help flush toxins from your body. Almost every process in your body depends on proper hydration to function smoothly.
  13. Help remove toxins in your intestines by using aloe vera juice (about a quarter cup) or drinking a few cups of slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, or rhubarb root tea (about one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of water).
  14. Take a probiotic supplement with live cultures on an empty stomach daily (morning or evening works well). The beneficial bacteria kill harmful bacteria and yeasts and help to heal the lining of the intestines.
  15. Get at least 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily. Sweating is one of the best ways of removing harmful toxins, including heavy metals, from the body.
[via care2]

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wearing, Rather Than Eating, Broccoli Could Protect Against Skin Cancer

The latest weapon in the war against skin cancer is lean, green, and universally abhorred by small children. We’re talking about broccoli, of course. The key, according to researcher Sally Dickinson, lies in sulforaphane, a naturally occurring compound in broccoli with established chemopreventive properties. Dickinson isn’t asking her patients to chow down on the cruciferous veggie, which has previously demonstrated risk-reduction properties for various forms of cancer, as a way to unlock its skin-protecting nutrients, however. Rather, she wants them to apply small doses of sulforaphane to their skin like they would sunscreen.

Wear Your Veggies

“Even though there is heightened awareness about the need for limited sun exposure and use of sunscreens, we’re still seeing far too many cases of skin cancer each year,” says Dickinson, a research assistant professor in the pharmacology department at the University of Arizona and a University of Arizona Cancer Center member, “We’re searching for better methods to prevent skin cancer in formats that are affordable and manageable for public use. Sulforaphane may be an excellent candidate for use in the prevention of skin cancer caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays.”

Dickinson’s research reveals that sulforaphane is highly effective at inhibiting cancer-causing pathways.

Dickinson’s research reveals that sulforaphane is highly adaptable and effective at inhibiting cancer-causing pathways (such as the AP-1 protein), while activating chemoprotective genes (such as the Nrf2 gene). A pilot study, conducted in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, will test a topical broccoli-sprout solution on the skin of a group of patients to ascertain the compound’s efficacy under solar simulated light. (Previous studies demonstrated the extract’s safety for both topical and oral use.)

If the research proves successful, Dickinson believes it could lead to wider applications for sulforaphane, particularly for patients with compromised immune systems.

“Sulforaphane is the kind of compound that has so many incredible theoretical applications if the dosage is measured properly,” Dickinson says. “We already know that it is very effective in blocking sunburns, and we have seen cases where it can induce protective enzymes in the skin.”
[via ecouterre]

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Wonder Spray of Organic Gardening

Though you may not see it advertised much or stacked on pallets at the big box stores, there is a pesticide out there that is non-toxic to humans, rarely harms beneficial insects, and is very effective against a wide range of garden pests. Neem oil.

Neem oil is extracted from seeds of the neem tree which grows in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It has been used for over two thousand years as a medicinal plant. As a biopesticide it has found great favor among organic gardeners. Neem oil is not the most cost-effective product for large crop areas, but a little bit goes a long way in the typical home garden. It should be used as part of an Integrated Pest Management strategy.

How does it kill pest insects and not beneficial insects? Neem oil must be ingested for it to work, so only critters eating plants that have been sprayed will be affected. It’s not an instant “knock-down” effect like synthetic broad-spectrum pesticides, but it only takes a few hours and is just as effective (if not more) at preventing harmful pest infestations. When a pest larva ingests neem oil with the plant material, a compound called “azadirachtin” starts to act on the larva’s hormonal system and prevents it from molting to the next stage, resulting in death.

Of critical importance is the fact that neem oil does not lead to the development of resistance in future generations of pests, because it acts on the hormonal system, not the digestive or nervous system. This is a great advantage over many synthetic pesticides which do cause resistance and necessitate the need for more and more toxic chemicals.

Neem oil also acts as a feeding deterrent and an oviposition deterrent for some pest species. When they “taste” it, the compounds in neem oil reverse the signals that tell the pest to feed, so the pest moves on and eventually starves. Adult females of many pest species will avoid laying eggs on plants sprayed with neem oil, significantly reducing the likelihood of infestation.

Neem oil has a pungent but not unpleasant odor, somewhat like citrus or garlic. It is normally sold as a concentrate to be mixed in a spray bottle. It can be slightly irritating to the skin, so take precautions, and don’t let the spray blow back in your face. Spray in early morning or late evening because intense sun can burn leaves when they’re still wet with the oil.

Use neem oil when pests such as caterpillars are doing a lot of damage despite your best efforts at IPM techniques (including hand-picking pests like the tomato hornworm). It is also good for neutralizing or preventing diseases and viruses, if the plant is not too far gone.

Here is a list of plant-eating pests that can be controlled with neem oil:
  1. Orthoptera: grasshoppers, katydids, crickets etc.
  2. Coleoptera: wide range of beetles/weevils
  3. Hemiptera: leafhoppers, aphids, psyllids & some scale insects
  4. Lepidoptera: cutworms, borers & caterpillars
  5. Thysanoptera: thrips
  6. Diptera: Sciarid fly, fruit fly, buffalo/blow & march fly
  7. Heteroptera: sucking bugs – Green veggie bug, spotted fruit bug etc.
  8. Others: nematodes, snails, and also some fungi and pathogenic viruses
This is a pretty amazing plant extract that has been used for millenniums. Its broad effectiveness against a variety of pests and its non-toxic nature to people and beneficial insects make it a must-have for the organic gardener and those of us concerned about the impact that synthetic pesticides have on the environment.
[via Real Farmacy]

Monday, September 9, 2013

Best and Worst Foods for Pain

Some research suggests that certain foods may affect rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

What you eat is crucial for so many conditions—such as diabetes—that it would be great if the right food could also help ease chronic pain. Unfortunately, the link between food and pain is not as clear.

However, inflammation is a key cause of pain in many conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. And there is some evidence to suggest that certain foods might help ease inflammation. Medication is proven to help RA symptoms, but some people do feel that food affects how they feel and function.

Here are some foods that could be potentially harmful or helpful when it comes to pain; use trial and error to see if they work for you. --By Amanda Gardner,

Salmon: Best

Salmon is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and these same compounds may also help reduce pain-promoting inflammation. That makes it a win-win for people with rheumatoid arthritis, who have greater risk of heart trouble than people without RA.

Studies have suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may protect against developing rheumatoid arthritis and could mitigate the severity of the disease. "If you have rheumatoid arthritis, it would not hurt to consume these,” says Hyon Choi, MD, DrPH, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. Tuna, mackerel and sardines are also excellent sources of omega-3.

Olive Oil: Best

Olive oil works much the same way as omega-3s do—by potentially reducing painful joint inflammation, says Dr. Choi. It's also a staple of the famed Mediterranean diet, which was shown in a 2003 study not only to reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients, but also to enhance physical function and vitality. A compound called oleocanthal, which gives olive oil its taste, may have the same effect in the body as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Keep in mind, though, that olive oil has as many calories as other types of fat, so don't overdo it.

Turmeric: Best

This spice, used liberally in India and other parts of Asia to add taste and also a creamy yellow color to foods, may also have some anti-inflammatory properties, although those effects are likely to be "very, very mild," says Eric L. Matteson, MD, chair of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The magic ingredient may be curcumin, the active compound in turmeric.

Milk: Best and Worst

Some research suggests dairy products are good for rheumatoid arthritis, while others seem to indicate that they’re bad.

People who are allergic to the protein casein found in milk will develop joint swelling if they drink milk, says Dr. Matteson. This is true even if they don’t have rheumatoid arthritis.

On the other hand, a study of almost 30,000 women in Iowa found that those who consumed high levels of vitamin D via various milk products had a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin D may have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Onions: Best

Onions contain tons of phytochemicals that may reduce inflammation. One study identified quercetin, a compound found in this vegetable, as a possible mediator for this effect. Onions have also shown some anti-cancer effects. And let's not forget they add taste, with virtually no calories.

Garlic: Best

A clove of garlic may be able to fight off not only vampires, but arthritis as well. Like onions, this flavorful little bulb may have properties that may keep your joints from aching.

"Garlic has phytochemicals that have been shown in mouse and rat studies as well as in test-tube studies to shut off the inflammatory pathways, similar to ibuprofen," says Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Alcohol: Best and Worst

Several studies have shown that people who drink in moderation have a lower risk of being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis—and if they do have RA, moderate drinkers seem to have less severe symptoms, including pain, than non drinkers.

But beware of alcohol if you're taking medications for RA, cautions Sandon: "Drugs can interact with alcohol."

Raspberries, Strawberries and Blackberries: Best

These berries contain phytochemicals known as anthocyanins, which may offer a benefit. "Anthocyanins stop inflammatory compounds in their tracks," says Sandon.

In one study, animals treated with red-raspberry extract were less likely to develop arthritis and less likely to have severe arthritis if they did develop the condition. There was also a protective effect on cartilage. Anthocyanins are responsible for the vibrant blue, red and purple colors seen in a variety of berries.

Bacon, Butter and Cream: Worst

The saturated fats in bacon and other animal products contain arachidonic acid, which may worsen inflammation and related pain and swelling. So skip the prime rib—a cut of meat that is particularly high in fat and calories—and select lean proteins instead, says Sandon.

Broccoli and Other Veggies: Best

And it's not just broccoli—a vegetable-rich diet in general may be helpful. One study found that people who regularly ate cooked vegetables had a 61% decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to those who didn't.

Other research has found that vegetarian diets may help with swollen joints and joint pain. "Vegetables in general have been associated with a protective effect on the development of rheumatoid arthritis," says Dr. Choi.

Cherries: Best

But not just any cherry. "There's some evidence that tart cherries can affect the sensation of pain," says Sandon. And studies have shown decreases in blood levels of a number of different inflammatory markers associated with consuming this tree fruit. Cherries have a reputation for relieving gout, another form of arthritis that involves repeat episodes of pain.

In fact, a study conducted by Dr. Choi found that people who ate cherries over a period of two days had a 35% lower risk of gout attacks than those who didn't.

Red Meat: Worst

High in saturated fat, studies suggest people who eat a diet that contains a lot of red meat are at greater risk of inflammatory arthritis.

Why? It's not clear, but meat fats or corrosive free radicals from iron may promote inflammation. Either way, limit your consumption of red meat, not only for pain, but also for your heart.

Sugary Drinks: Worst

There's really no clear evidence that sugary drinks are good or bad for chronic pain. However, they tend to be low in nutrients and relatively high in calories, and may be a contributor to the obesity epidemic.

In general, being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by 24%, according to a recent study authored by Dr. Matteson. Carrying around extra weight also puts unnecessary stress on already beleaguered joints.

So it might be best to avoid them as part of your healthy-eating plan.

Gluten: Worst

People with celiac disease, which is a severe gluten intolerance, can develop arthritis, so some people with rheumatoid arthritis steer clear of this ingredient.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley, and many grain products including breads, pasta, and cereal. Some medicines, vitamins, and lip balms may contain gluten too. You can choose legumes, nuts, quinoa, and rice instead.

But keep in mind that eating a completely gluten-free diet can be a challenge (and expensive), so no need to do so if gluten doesn't seem to be a problem.

Eggplant: Best and Worst

Eggplant is a "nightshade vegetable," in the same category as tomatoes and potatoes. Evidence is mixed on the benefit—or harm—of these items.

"There are people who claim nightshades are helpful and others who claim they're aggravating or not helpful," says Dr. Matteson. There's no evidence that support claims one way or the other. And cutting out nighshades may cut you off from other helpful compounds, such as capsaicin in red peppers, which can dampen inflammation.

Yogurt: Best

Some types of yogurt contain probiotics—or beneficial microorganisms—and some researchers now believe there may be a connection between rheumatoid arthritis and the gut.

If that's the case, the more good bugs, the better. "There's a theory that a healthy gut may control some of the inflammation . . . if you have good bacteria fighting for you," says Sandon.

Like other dairy products, yogurt may be fortified with beneficial vitamin D (check the label), but best to avoid it if you have an allergy.