Can switching to organic foods make a difference to employee health and nutrition? There are many claims about the benefits of organic foods. Unfortunately, the current research is equivocal regarding the validity of these claims.
There are medical, environmental, and financial factors to consider when deciding whether to go organic. Consider the following pros and cons.
PROS of Organic Foods:
- Pesticides are not used in organic foods; natural compounds are used instead. Many health risks, such as cancer, are associated with pesticide use.
- Organic foods must meet many USDA qualifications before they can be marketed as organic.
- Use of organic compounds on animals means that they are not fed antibiotics or growth hormones and that they are fed organic food.
CONS of Organic Foods:
- The downside to organic is that these foods tend to be more expensive. This can lead to a difficult decision in the grocery store between apples that look the same but vary in price.
- Organic produce may spoil faster than fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides. Because they don’t have the wax-like coverings on them, they can go bad more quickly. Products that have the wax coverings should be labeled, indicating that a product was used to increase shelf life and decrease the occurrence of disease.
Other things to keep in mind when purchasing your food:
- If certified organic, the food will have the USDA certified organic sticker on it.
- Food must be at least 70 percent organic to be able to have the USDA certification.
- Natural means that there aren’t any artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself what is best for your family, lifestyle, and checkbook.
When I saw the Consumer Reports article a few weeks ago about them finding high levels of arsenic in rice, my first thought was, “surely they were wrong!” However, after researching it a little further, all of the evidence points to the sad truth that one of our cheapest, quickest, and most popular grains to eat and prepare may be dangerous.
I found this interesting article from the Chicago Tribune that gives tips on how to reduce the arsenic levels in rice. The following excerpt shows what the article suggests you do:
Rinse your rice thoroughly. The FDA cites several studies indicating that "thoroughly rinsing rice until the water is clear (four to six changes of water) reduced the total arsenic content by up to approximately 25-30 percent."
Check your municipal water report. "Make sure your local water supply does not have high levels of arsenic," says John Duxbury of Cornell University, who studies arsenic and rice. "If you do have high levels, washing can make it worse. But if you are under 10 parts per billion, it should help."
Cook and drain your rice sort of like pasta. "We say to use about 6 parts water to 1 part rice," says Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist at Consumer Reports. "And then drain off the water after it's done." The FDA says that studies show rinsing and cooking in excess water can reduce total arsenic levels by 50 to 60 percent. "However, it should be noted that for enriched rice, rinsing will also likely reduce the amount of added nutrients," the agency said.
Choose aromatic rices. For those who are already fans of Indian basmati or Thai jasmine rices, the news is not so bad. According to the hundreds of recently released test results, aromatic rice varieties show the lowest levels of inorganic arsenic. Imported basmati and jasmine rices showed about half to one-eighth the level of arsenic as regular rices grown in the Southern U.S.
Consider limiting brown rice consumption. From a nutritional and fiber standpoint, brown rice is tops, but because its bran remains intact it can also hold on to higher levels of arsenic, according to test results. Are the nutritional benefits worth the arsenic load? Hard to say at this point. But some test results indicate that brown rice from California and India have [sic] much lower levels of arsenic than brown rice from Southern U.S. states. For now, they may be the best choice.
Choose California. Of the domestic rices tested by Consumer Reports, California rices had lower levels of arsenic than those in other states. FDA rice results also indicated that some U.S. rice had lower levels of arsenic, but the data it released to the public did not specify states of origin.
Be careful when feeding babies rice cereal and rice milk. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office conducted tests of rice cereals for babies that she announced all contained inorganic arsenic. Gerber recently released a statement announcing it now sources its baby cereal rice only from California. Still Consumer Reports advises that children do not drink rice milk and that infant rice cereal (1/4 cup) be served no more than once a day.
Hopefully by following some of these tips and suggestions, we can all feel more confident in consuming this tasty whole grain. More research is currently being done on this topic, so until the conclusion is released, try to rotate other whole grains such as quinoa, barley, couscous, and whole-wheat pasta into your diet and choose rice less often.
This blog was written by Kara Gootee-Robinson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
Summer has arrived along with barbeques, pool parties, ball games, and all those outdoor activities we enjoy this time of year. When those events are planned, you are most likely prepared to wear your hat and sunglasses and to apply sunscreen. But what about those everyday occurrences? Long walks from the car to the office, a bicycle commute to work, walk-at-work events, or simply enjoying your lunch outside expose the skin to harmful ultraviolet rays.
Tips for Reducing Skin Cancer Risk
Skin cancer kills thousands of Americans each year. The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation, and there are many ways to prevent skin cancer and reduce your risk:
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are the strongest.
- Use sunscreen daily, with an SPF of 15 or higher.
- Protect your skin with long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses.
- Self check―be sure to watch for changes in your skin.
Promote Employee Sun Safety
July is UV Safety Month and a great time to promote sun safety for your employees. Spread the word in your workplace. Let your coworkers and employees know how easy prevention is. Easy ways to increase awareness and encourage sun safety in the workplace include the following:
- Post signs and posters about sun safety.
- Offer skin cancer screenings onsite.
- Provide sunscreen samples.
- Designate a shaded area for outdoor lunch breaks.
Even on a cloudy day, grab that hat and apply sunscreen because even on the haziest of days the sun’s rays are powerful and damaging!
This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
In 2007, 11.7 million Americans were reported to have some form of invasive cancer. Men have a greater than 44 percent chance of developing some sort of cancer during their lifetime—this means that almost one out of every two males will be plagued by cancer. Furthermore, statistics show that more than 23 percent of men will end up dying from cancer (that’s nearly one out of every four). Women fare slightly better with a 38 percent chance of developing cancer (one in three) and a 19.6 percent chance of dying from cancer (one in five).
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Why dedicate a whole month to breast cancer awareness? Of the more than 11.7 million cases of invasive cancer, about 2.6 million were breast cancer. More than 12 percent of all American women have breast cancer right now (that’s one out of every eight). Of those women, almost 3 percent will die from breast cancer (1 in 36). Early detection and awareness provide great defense against breast cancer. Health professionals estimate thousands of lives are saved each year through regular screenings and self breast exams.
Who Is at Risk for Breast Cancer?
Essentially, anyone with a pulse can develop breast cancer. Following are specific risk factors:
- Although men can be affected, being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer, as women are about 100 times more likely to have breast cancer than men.
- Age also plays a role in breast cancer development, with increasing age heightening your risk. About one out of every eight invasive cases occurs in women under the age of 45, whereas two out of three cases are found in women over 55.
- Five to ten percent of all cases are thought to be hereditary, or genetic, resulting from gene defects.
- Those with a positive family history of breast cancer are also at a higher risk (approximately three times more likely) than those having no immediate relatives affected by the disease.
Visit www.cancer.org to find out more about the risks for developing breast cancer.
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer
Support breast cancer fighters and survivors by participating in a “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” event. Visit the American Cancer Society online to find an event near you.