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Recipes From Healthy Holistic Living
Fritters are fried foods that can consist of a meat, fruit or vegetable filling covered in batter, and are popular across the world due to their ease of preparation. Fritters encourage experimentation and improvisation, allowing you to create a recipe that is uniquely yours once you've found ingredients that go well together.
However, if you’ve been eating fritters from commercial establishments, there's a chance you've eaten trans fats and other unhealthy substances, which can pose health risks in the long run. But why settle for unhealthy fritters when you can make a healthy batch right at home?
This recipe from Healthy Holistic Living is an organic and healthy approach to the ever-popular zucchini fritters. The avocado dill dip makes the meal even better, because it provides extra flavor (and nutrients) that will surely complement the mild taste of the fritters.
1 large or 2 small zucchinis
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh oregano
1 Tbsp. organic lemon zest
2 organic, free-range eggs
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. of pepper
2 Tbsp. organic coconut oil
1. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the zucchini, place them in a colander set in the sink, and toss with 1/2 tsp. of salt. Let stand for 10 minutes, and then wring the zucchini dry in a clean kitchen towel to remove moisture. Place the zucchini in a large bowl and gently mix in the egg, garlic, basil, oregano, lemon zest, onion powder, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Then slowly add the flour last while stirring so no lumps form.
2. Heat 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the oil sizzles when you drop a small amount of the batter into the pan. Carefully drop the fritters into the pan, spacing them a few inches apart.
3. Cook fritters for 2 to 3 minutes until golden, then lower heat to medium. Turn the fritters, and then repeat the process. Transfer the cooked fritters to a plate and set aside in a warm place.
Avocado Dill Dip
1 ripe avocado
1/2 tsp. of onion powder
1/2 tsp. Vegenaise
1/2 cup finely chopped dill
Salt to taste
1. Cut avocado in half, and remove the seed.
2. Scoop meat with a spoon and place in a bowl.
3. Add all other ingredients.
4. Mash until smooth.
Zucchini as the Fritter Foundation
Zucchinis are a popular filling for fritters, due to their fairly neutral taste that can be enhanced with herbs and spices. In terms of health benefits, zucchinis have plenty to go around. They're an excellent source of fiber, contain no cholesterol or unhealthy fats, and have generous amounts of potassium, which are all essential to overall heart health.
To top it all off, zucchinis have good amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, as well as other nutrients such as folate, zinc, and magnesium – all of which can help proper blood sugar regulation.
When purchasing zucchinis, the dark-skinned varieties are recommended because they're richer in nutrients. The size is important as well – if a zucchini is too big, it is less flavorful, so pick the ones that are just the right size. Lastly, always remember to purchase from certified organic producers, because most varieties sold in the U.S. are genetically modified.
Creating the Batter Using Coconut Flour and Free-Range Eggs
Another key component that defines fritters is the batter. When mixed correctly and in the right consistency, the batter will be crispy once cooked. To create quality batter, you need quality eggs and flour.
In terms of nutrients, eggs have long been touted to be a good source of high-quality protein and amino acids such as tryptophan and tyrosine, which can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Be sure to purchase eggs harvested from free-range, pasture-raised chickens. Free-range chickens don't have any antibiotics injected in them, and are naturally healthy because they're allowed to eat their natural diet of worms and other insects.
If you’re not used to eating coconut-based products – which in this recipe are the oil you fry with and the coconut flour – you should give them a try. Coconuts are rich in lauric acid, which can help boost your immune system. I also highly recommended coconuts for pregnant women because the lauric acid can boost their baby’s immune system as well.
These Healthy Flavor Enhancers Pack an Extra Punch for This Snack
Herbs and spices can do wonders to a dish, such as enhancing the aroma and modifying the flavor. This recipe makes use of some of the most popular seasonings that are used around the world:
• Basil - This mighty herb has powerful antioxidants such as vitamin A, which contains beta-carotenes that can protect your blood vessels from free radical damage. As a result, cholesterol in your blood is prevented from oxidizing. Basil also contains DNA-protecting flavonoids that provide plenty of cellular protection.
• Oregano – It contains important vitamins such as vitamin A for immune system maintenance, and vitamin K to prevent the formation of blood clots. Oregano is a great source of folate as well, which can help form RNA and DNA building blocks in your cells. The high iron content found in oregano also lowers your risk of anemia.
• Pepper – This popular spice brings plenty of dishes to life, but be careful because adding too much can make your fritters extra spicy (unless that's what you're going for). Research has shown that pepper is a great source of vitamin K, iron, manganese and fiber, which are essential nutrients for a properly functioning body. Pepper is also a carminative, meaning it can help prevent the formation of intestinal gas.
• Garlic – This is a great ingredient because it provides plenty of nutrients, and its taste doesn't overpower the other ingredients. Garlic contains enzymes and antioxidants that promote improved body functions such as the healthy formation of bones and connective tissues, and proper thyroid function. It also contains generous amounts of manganese, vitamin B6 and C.
• Lemon zest – It adds a citrusy undertone to the recipe. Lemons are good source of vitamin C, and contain flavonoids called esperetin and naringenin, which provide free radical-fighting properties. They're also a good source of fiber, calcium, potassium and vitamin B6. The citric acid also helps aid in digestion, and can even dissolve kidney stones.
Avocado Dip Adds Even More Flavor and Nutrients
Avocados are known for being bountiful in essential nutrients, such as vitamin K, B5, B6, and C, and are a good source of fiber too. They're also known for having high amounts of potassium, which can help prevent cardiovascular diseases. Overall, using avocados for this dip can help maintain your healthy cholesterol levels and aid in digesting of fat-soluble nutrients.
Dill is another herb that works similar to oregano and basil, adding savory warmth to the dip. It has been found to be a good source of vitamin A and C, similar to basil and lemons.
The other ingredient used in this dip is Vegenaise. It's basically eggless mayonnaise made using expeller-pressed oils. It’s a great alternative, especially for vegans, because it is healthy and cholesterol-free.
About the Blog
Healthy Holistic Living is an independent alternative health news resource that provides innovative, alternative health-related content, resources and product information that empowers individuals to make positive change in their lives and in the world.
Environmental Exposures, Autism and Developmental Delays — An Approach From an Integrative Psychiatrist
By Dr. Mercola
According to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 50 children between the ages of 6 and 17 has some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).1,2
A government survey issued in 2015 claims the ASD rate may be as high as 1 in 45 children between the ages of 3 and 17.3,4 There has been a dramatic and concerning increase in the rates of ASD over the last 20 years and experts' believe that the rates will continue to increase.
What is responsible for this epidemic? Dr. Suruchi Chandra, a Harvard-trained, board-certified psychiatrist, has focused her career on using a holistic and integrative approach to help children and adults with challenging emotional and behavioral issues, including autism and other developmental delays.
I met her at a training event with Dr. Lee Cowden, who is my physician-mentor, and Chandra uses many of Cowden's principles and healing tools on these autistic kids.
Chandra was prompted to look into integrative approaches after she completed her medical training at Harvard and Yale because she was confronted by many devastating psychiatric conditions for which there was often little hope.
"This is true for developmental delays as well as psychiatric disorders. As you know, these disorders can be truly devastating, whether it's bipolar, treatment-resistant depression, or autism. I wasn't satisfied. I thought, 'Perhaps we're missing something as a field.'
This really led me to start looking at integrative medicine. I came in highly skeptical, assuming perhaps that if these things weren't known by some of the better, more established institutions, they weren't likely to help.
But I saw children improving and I saw also adults improving in a way that I hadn't seen before. I thought, 'I have the responsibility and even a moral obligation to understand this field better.'
Now I've been in this field for about 12 years. Again, what keeps me in this field, what motivates me, is the type of improvements that I see on a day to day basis in children, and also this sense that there's more that we can learn to help these children and adults."Autism Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
While autism numbers are radically increasing, Chandra believes it's just the tip of the iceberg. Aside from children with some form of ASD, a growing number of children also struggle with developmental and speech delays, as well as motor disorders.
According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental delays affect 1 out of 6 or 7 children, Chandra notes.
It's important to realize that most disease, be it autism, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases or anything else, are rooted in some form of imbalance; imbalance in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the immune system and/or mitochondrial dysfunction.
If you expertly address those, and do it early enough, it's quite possible to see vast improvement in virtually any disease. Sadly, many simply don't believe it's possible, and this goes for trained physicians and patients alike. The reason they don't believe it is because they've never been trained to think like that.
Most also have never or rarely seen radical recoveries in their clinical practice, which are possible when you treat the root cause of the disease rather than simply treating the symptoms with drugs.
Since there are no pharmaceutical medications that treat the core symptoms of autism, Chandra recommends using gentle and holistic approaches that are aimed at addressing possible underlying biomedical imbalances before psychiatric medications.
She also stresses that we should think about how the commonly used medications may affect these biomedical imbalances.
"For example, some of the psychiatric medications approved for autism actually affect the mitochondria in an adverse way. We should look for other resources before jumping to them because you don't want to affect the mitochondria in a negative way," Chandra says.Factors Contributing to Autism
There are many theories about the origins of autism. Many still assume autism is a genetic disorder. Most psychiatrists have been taught that autism was 90 percent inherited and genetic, and that little can be done to address it other than psychiatric medications and behavioral therapies.
However, more recent research has supported that environmental exposures play a significant role in the development of ASD and scientists have started turning their attention to environmental factors.
Studies on twins suggest genetic factors may account for as much as 38 percent of autism, but the remaining majority is due to early environmental exposures. This makes common sense as well. As noted by Chandra, "there is no such thing as a genetic epidemic. Genes don't change that fast."
"Again, we have to look at the environment. By environment, we're not talking just about environmental toxins, although I think those are things we need to pay attention to. We need to look at everything surrounding a child during development.
This includes the microbial world, the microbiome, the bacteria that are around us; some pathogenic, some friendly. We also need to look at food. Food can either be a stressor or something that's healing.
[I also think] we need to question the increasing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). We need to take a really broad view. It's unlikely that autism is going to be caused by one or two factors.
It's likely to be caused by this combination of many factors, and it's going to be unique for each child.
It's really challenging when you have this very individualized complex system, as studies aren't going to figure this out easily. If we just wait for studies, we may be waiting a long, long time to act."Environmental Exposures and Developmental Delays
In the lecture5 featured above, Chandra discusses research findings showing how environmental toxins can influence ASD and other developmental delays, and reviews a number of safe, gentle natural treatment options that can be quite helpful. Overall, the approach Chandra uses is precautionary, beginning with identifying and reducing toxic exposures in your home. She has a handout she gives to parents, which you can download from her website, chandramd.com.
It's four pages long, covering aspects like air and water quality, pesticides, flame retardants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in a range of products, including furniture.
"I think we have to look at all of these things because it's going to be really hard to know what is affecting a particular child. Rather than pinpointing one thing, I think we need to take a really comprehensive approach. I'm happy to share this handout with any parents that are interested, because it's a good place to start," she says.Diet Is Key
Your diet can literally make or break your health. It can introduce toxins to your system or help remove them. Foods can change your gut microbiome in a very short amount of time, for better or worse.
Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D. is convinced part of the autism problem is related to the fact that virtually everyone is eating processed foods and/or foods contaminated with glyphosate-based pesticides like Roundup, both of which are extremely detrimental to your microbiome. Glyphosate also negatively impacts the mitochondria, so it really delivers a double whammy.
While genetically engineered (GE) crops like corn, soy and sugar are primary culprits, as they're heavily sprayed with glyphosate and used in most processed foods, conventional wheat can also be heavily contaminated, as glyphosate is used to desiccate wheat right before harvest.
Another factor Chandra sees in many autistic children is the overuse of antibiotics early in life, as well as the overuse of antibiotics in the mother's life. "Mothers who use a lot of antibiotics preconception at any point seem to have children that have serious gut issues, which often are correlated with behaviors," she says.
Chandra also believes that the microbiome is likely key in understanding ASD, similar to the views of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, whom I've interviewed in the past about her Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet. Campbell-McBride's basic thesis is that the autistic child's microbiome was disrupted by the mother's poor diet and use of antibiotics or birth control pills. The mother then transfers that poor microbiome to the child.
This early disruption in the microflora, combined with other environmental variables, ends up wreaking both physical and neurological havoc. Chandra, like Campbell-McBride, finds the greatest improvements are typically seen once strategies that help heal the microbiome are implemented.
"There's a saying that all disease begins in the gut," Chandra says. "When I first heard that, I thought, 'That's way too simplistic.' While it is a little reductionistic, I am finding myself thinking in that way. That's really where I start with each child: figuring out 'where is their GI tract?' We do tests to assess that.
Then as we heal the gut, that's where I often see the greatest gains for that subset of children. Again, that's not all the children. But for that subset of children where all the GI issues are predominant, that's where I see the greatest gains. I agree with her [Campbell-McBride]. The approach I use is a little different, but I agree with her basic principles."Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet Benefits Many With Autism
One of the strategies many families with autistic children end up trying is the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet. And for good reason. Gluten and casein have opioid-like activity, thanks to gluteomorphin and caseomorphin, and you really do not want to stimulate the opioid receptors in your child's brain. I think it's a good strategy for everyone, but particularly for those with developmental delays or autism.
When I was treating autistic patients, I typically saw enormous improvements when we restricted sugars, grains, fruit juices and fruits — all sources of net carbs (total carbohydrates minus fiber) that disturb the gut microbiome, increase pathogenic yeast, fungi and viruses, and wreak havoc with the mitochondrial fuel structure.
"That's good advice," Chandra says. "Especially lowering added sugars, fructose and fruit juices. Fruit juices are immediate source of sugar for part of the microbiome that shouldn't be there. That's some of the advice that I give the kids early on. That certainly makes change. In terms of reducing grains, some of the children benefit.
There's some evidence that some of the children with autism don't have the enzymes to break down the disaccharides. Again, it's a subset of children that benefit from that. We need to take a more individualized approach. But again, looking at carbs and sugars can make a big difference."The Case for a High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet
My current working theory for most diseases, certainly any neurodegenerative disease, and even brain traumatic injuries (BTI), is to provide optimized fuel for the body, specifically the brain, which is really more optimized for burning fat than glucose. Most people eat far too many net carbs. As a result of that, we burn fuel inefficiently and create a lot of unnecessary free radicals. So a high-fat, low-carb diet seems a reasonable strategy to try. Chandra agrees, saying:
"Many of the kids I see are not getting enough good-quality fats. I tell the parents the brain is predominantly fat and you need to get the right material for the brain development. Even things like cholesterol. There are quite a few children at my practice that have low cholesterol.
You need cholesterol for the brain to develop. The strongest genetic link to any mutation and autism is actually the inability to make adequate amounts of cholesterol ...
Some children do well on the higher-fat diets, but again it's individualized. But I agree with the basic principle of dramatically reducing free sugars, added sugars, simple carbs, processed carbs, and then looking at grains. Every child with autism that has any GI issues should have a trial, I think, of the gluten-free and casein-free diet to begin with, to see if they respond."The Cell Danger Response
Chandra uses a model relating to the cell danger response, discovered by Dr. Robert Naviaux. He's created a "unifying theory" for autism that takes many disparate symptoms into account by explaining what happens at the cellular level.
By looking at the cellular level, he discovered the signaling mechanism that cells do when they're in danger. This cell response is instigated by the mitochondria. In many chronic illnesses — including autism — the cells are responding to each other as if they're in danger.
The question is: what's causing them to signal distress? It could be a response to an environmental toxin, a microbial exposure, or even something as simple as heat or cold. Naviaux is now investigating ways of stopping this signaling. However, "before we stop the signaling, we need to remove all the things that could be seen as a danger for the cells," Chandra says.
"What this model tells me is that the children who are developing now don't have an environment that allows them to feel safe. We've gotten so far from where we should be in terms of all the environmental exposures ... that the cells don't feel they're safe.
What Dr. Naviaux says is, if the cells don't feel like they're safe, they're going to take all their resources and put it towards survival rather than developing language, social skills, humor and all those higher-order functions.
So the first thing we do is remove all the things that could be seen as a danger ... We have to take a precautionary approach; we can't wait for those studies. We have to think: 'Is this safe?' That's my first question rather than, 'Has this been proven to be harmful?' We also look at infections.
These infections can be part of the microbiome or a systemic infection. Once the cells are in a safe place, we can look at mechanisms by which the cells can feel safe again. That's what Dr. Naviaux is looking at. I think many of the things we use, like supplements and herbs, actually are telling the cells, 'It's safe now. You can go back to a healing, growing mode.'"Diagnostic Tools
So, to summarize Chandra's strategy, she looks beyond imbalances in neurotransmitters, with an emphasis on the gut, the immune system and the mitochondria. She, and others who work with this model, does not view autism primarily as a brain-based disease. Instead, she views it as a whole body disease, involving multiple systems that affect the brain. To assess these various systems, Chandra relies on a wide variety of diagnostic tools that most conventional psychiatrists would never think to use.
• GI function: to assess the child's GI tract, she begins by taking a family history and doing a physical examination. She also performs tests to assess the child's gut bacteria, level of inflammation and digestive function. If it's determined that the child cannot digest carbs, for example, she will recommend reducing or avoiding grains and using a digestive enzyme.
• Immune function and chronic infections: many autistic children have evidence of immune dysfunction, such as autoimmune problems and/or excess inflammation, so she will also assess and prescribe support for the child's immune function. Diagnosing and treating chronic infections is a related component.
For example, the spirochete Borrelia can affect your brain and cause psychiatric symptoms. Unfortunately, few doctors or psychiatrists take the time to rule out Lyme disease when presented with a psychiatric case. Since Lyme disease can be exceptionally difficult to diagnose, when the history, exam and laboratory testing suggest a possible diagnosis of Lyme, Chandra will do a diagnostic trial with Banderol and Samento.
Eva Sapi, Ph.D. demonstrated in an in vitro study that these two herbs, Banderol and Samento, were effective against Borrelia burgdoferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. NutraMedix sells very high-quality Banderol and Samento that Chandra uses in her practice and I personally use and recommend.
"Based on how the child responds, we know if it's a possibility or likelihood they have this infection. If it's likely they have it, because of what we call Herxheimer response, where they get dramatically worse, or in some cases, dramatically better, we just continue treating as it seems fit," Chandra says.
"If the disorder is caused by one of these infections, it can make all the difference to treat the infection. This is where you can take a child who may have chronic developmental delays and autism and you put him on a different life course if you treat in an appropriate way. That's why we were taught so emphatically in training: rule out reversible causes, treat infections."
• Mitochondrial health: mitochondria are organelles inside nearly every one of your cells. "They are, we now know, kind of the canaries in the coal mine. When there's some danger or stress, they're the first things that respond to the damage," Chandra says. Studies suggest 60 percent of children with autism have mitochondrial dysfunction, so this is a significant factor.
There are tests that can indicate whether your child's mitochondria are affected. For example, low carnitine, coenzyme Q10 and certain amino acid ratios can signify mitochondrial dysfunction. If mitochondrial dysfunction is found to be part of the problem, there are holistic approaches to help heal them. This includes adding more healthy fats to the diet, "healing and sealing" the gut and addressing any infections.Offering Hope for Autistic Children
Some believe it's impossible for autistic children to improve, but one study actually showed that up to 20 percent of children with autism do recover. "What keeps me in this field is that I see improvements every day," Chandra says. "I believe strongly that if you use an approach that uses behavioral therapies and this approach, you're more likely to see improvements."
Early intervention is important though. Children who get help by or before the age of 3 tend to make the most dramatic improvements, sometimes with relatively few interventions.
"Sometimes improvements are enough that they have what we call recovered," Chandra says. "For example, I saw a child at 4 and a half, which many people think is too late, because there's this idea that you have to do the interventions before age 5. The parents came to me not entirely hopeful.
We started with simple interventions. He had a lot of abdominal pain, constipation. We did a gluten-free diet. We removed sugars, excess sugars from the diet. We healed his constipation. We gave him lots of herbs and supported the mitochondria. This is ongoing work. It's not overnight. We continue doing this. We did therapies that are often not recommended by typical psychiatrists, including movement therapies that help regenerate the brain, we believe.
This child is now 10, in a mainstream small school that's academically challenging, getting all As and A+s, having no behavioral problems, needing no support. He still has a little bit of fine motor issues, but he's really motivated to play sports. He's out there doing lots of physical training and occupational therapy (OT) so he can handle that last obstacle. This is the type of healing that's possible. I wish it was for every child. It's not available I think for every child, but it is possible."Early Signs and Symptoms
Chandra stresses that there's no need to wait until your child is 3 or older to start the biomedical approach. While most children with ASD and other developmental delays do not receive a diagnosis until age 2 or later, there are often earlier signs of a dysregulated system. Early signs that warrant further work up and treatment include GI disturbances (e.g. chronic spitting up), hypotonia (poor muscle tone) including weak control of head and neck at 6 months, and poor of eye contact.
"We have really safe, gentle interventions like probiotics and dietary changes that we can use as a precautionary approach when there's a likelihood of these children being affected," Chandra says.
"Here's a story I think about a lot because this is something a mother taught me. A child came to see me at 11 months, which I'd never had before. This mother brought him at 11 months because she was an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapist. She knew what to look for and she also knew what would happen if she didn't take action ...
At 9 months, this child lost eye contact, stopped babbling and he developed something we call head lag, which a child at 9 months should not have. She did her research and she knew he was at a high likelihood for a developmental delay and possibly autism.
What did she do that was different from most moms? One, she had this knowledge and she said, 'I'm not going to wait' ... The second thing she did was she said, 'What's going on underneath? These are the behaviors, but what's going on at a metabolic level, physiological level?'
She, based on her research, decided he likely had mitochondrial dysfunction and gave him some carnitine and CoQ10 and other mitochondrial supports, and he developed language and good eye contact. But he was still kind of floppy and had some motor delays. She did some more research and brought him to see me.
I've now worked with him for two years. He likely has one of these chronic infections, which we treated. He now, at 3 years, speaks in seven-word sentences. He's developing not only on target but ahead in many areas, and there's no concern about a developmental delay.
Every time I see him — he comes in at about every three months — it's very bittersweet, because on one hand, I'm so happy for this child and his family, but every time I see him, I think about all the other children out there and what's not being done."More Information
Stories like that demonstrate that there's plenty of hope. The key is to not sit around and hope for the best. If you notice warning signs, be proactive. In terms of resources, Chandra recommends:
• Dr. Martha Herbert's book "The Autism Revolution." Herbert is a pediatric neurologist at Harvard. "It's a great book because it's based on sound science, but it also has practical advice and offers hope," Chandra says.
• The Autism Research Institute offers free educational webinars for parents, covering strategies such as dietary and behavioral-based interventions.
• Talk About Curing Autism (TACA). This group was founded by a mother in Los Angeles whose child has autism. It now hosts an annual conference, and you can find local chapters in 30 different states.
"If you're fortunate enough to have one of these groups in your city, I encourage you to contact them, because they offer one-on-one mentoring by mothers who have been doing this type of approach for a while. There's nothing, I think, that can replace that," Chandra says. TACA also offers a lot of information online that you can peruse.
• Documenting Hope. This is group of women who are making a documentary to show that recovery is possible for a number of childhood illnesses, including autism. They're also in the process of creating a grassroots effort. Chandra recommends contacting them to see whether they have any local meetings in your area as well.
• You can learn more about integrative psychiatry, developmental delays and other complex chronic illnesses on Chandra's website, chandramd.com. There you can also sign up for her newsletter, and find her contact information, should you be interested in making an appointment.Come See Me Speak With Dr. Cowden
Lastly, if you are a health care professional and interested in learning from Dr. Lee Cowden about many of the strategies Dr. Chandra is using, I am speaking at the annual Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine in Orlando on September 22 and 23rd. We will be exploring how to apply these strategies in the treatment of cancer. So if you know someone with cancer it would be highly beneficial to attend this conference.
It promises to be one of the best events of the year and I am very excited to be sharing my latest insights on the metabolic treatment of cancer. Many of the leading experts in the field will also be there. If you have an interest in cancer, this is the go-to event of the year to get the latest insights on how to conquer cancer with diet. You can find out details at this link.
Corporate retail grocery giants contributing to global hunger and food waste by rejecting food that's 'too ugly'
By Dr. Mercola
While large-scale monocrop farms and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have overtaken family farms in the U.S., 80 percent of the world’s food supply still comes from small family-operated farms.
These farms also employ about 40 percent of the global workforce. As noted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations:1
“Family farms are also the custodians of about 75 percent of all agricultural resources in the world, and are therefore key to improved ecological and resource sustainability.”
The same sentiment is echoed in the featured documentary “Those Who Sow,” written by members of the agronomy association Agro et Sac à Dos, which notes that our current food supply could actually feed nearly 12 billion people, almost double the current population.
To investigate the diversity, challenges and benefits of family farming around the world, a group of agronomists visited farmers in India, France, Ecuador, Cameroon and Canada.Farming Is a Means Out of Poverty in India
In India, diversity helps keep a family of 35 well-fed and well-nourished without ever having to buy food from the local market. Showing the agronomist around his farm, the farmer notes the many different foods being grown, including rice, fruits and vegetables.
In addition to allowing the extended family to enjoy a life of self-sufficiency, some of the produce is also sold, providing the family with income. Not all family farms are as diversified. Some, even those in developing nations like India, focus on one main product, such as milk production.
By providing infrastructure, training and financing, Amul, which is the largest dairy cooperative in India, has provided previously poverty-stricken people with a lucrative business option. For many, cow ownership has become a way to rise out of poverty.
Dairy farmer Bhagha Thakor, who owns four cows, makes as much money off their milk each day as he would working as a laborer for five days on someone else’s farm.
Thanks to Amul, more than 3 million farmers now make a decent living selling milk, and the majority of them have less than five cows. Through this cooperative, these millions of small-scale farmers are also able to satisfy India’s demand for dairy products.
Poverty and hunger are still prevalent in India though, and projects that promote access to various means of food production are in high demand. This includes loans, access to land and water, as well as agricultural training.Family Farming in Developed Countries
Family farms are not relegated to developing nations like India. In France, before World War II, the majority of the country’s food supply came from small family farms. Today, a much smaller yet thriving farmers’ community still exists.
To remain competitive and profitable, farmers have had to expand and specialize. Visiting a family farm in Troume, the team gets an inside view of one of these French food producers.
Specializing in pork production, the Levesque farm quadrupled production between 1978 and 2000. At the same time, three-quarters of the family farms in the area disappeared, unable to stay competitive.
These kinds of expansions and consolidations have allowed French farmers to not only provide food security for the nation, but have also turned France into a major food exporter.
However, expansion, consolidation and specialization have their drawbacks. The Levesque family can only produce one-third of the grains needed to feed their pigs. The rest must be bought. Some staples must even be imported from other countries.
Family farming can also take a toll on the environment. As noted in the film, minerals in soybeans, which are fed to the pigs, eventually end up in soil and water as the pigs’ waste is used as fertilizer. Problems can ensue when these minerals build up, such as the development of green algae.
It bears noting that just because a farm is family run does not mean it adheres to safe, regenerative agricultural methods, although more and more farmers are starting to recognize the need for more sustainable practices.
Farms using regenerative methods are far less likely to have a negative impact on the environment, as they work with nature and ecology rather than against it.Farmers Can and Will Adapt to Changing Demands, but Need Consumer Support
The Levesque family is working toward producing more antibiotic-free pork, which they recognize is better for consumer health.
But it can be difficult, as efficiency and low cost tend to be two opposing forces that farmers need to weigh. Ultimately, consumers' behavior plays an important role, as they either will or will not pay a particular price for a given product.
“What we need to remember is that family farmers are quite capable of adapting to the changing demands of society, so long as we support them and pay them properly,” the film notes.
When it comes to dairy production, French farmers need a minimum of 25 to 30 cows to remain viable. The cost of land, equipment and livestock prevents most people from taking up farming in the first place.
You need an estimated €1 million just to get started — a hefty investment for most. However, here too there are farm incubator programs that aid young people to get into the field, both literally and figuratively.Farming Export Products Is Risky Business
In Cameroon, many farmers specialize in the production of coffee and cocoa, which are exported to other countries. However, while national cooperatives like Amul in India help stabilize prices, the export producers in Cameroon and elsewhere face much higher risks due to the fluctuation of global prices.
In the 1990s, when global coffee production increased, income from this commodity dropped sharply. As a result, coffee farmers in Africa faced grave difficulties.
Still to this day, many cannot afford to produce coffee, focusing instead on diversifying their crops and growing foods that can be sold locally. As noted by one former coffee farmer, by focusing on food crops, he can at least feed himself even if no one wants to buy it.
This shift toward diversification and local distribution and sale has helped protect farmers from the risks associated with exports to the global market. Produce from Cameroon has also entered the African regional market, being bought locally by middlemen who then transport and resell it in neighboring countries.
In Cameroon, men traditionally support their families by growing cash crops that are sold, while the women grow food for personal consumption. A group of women visited by the team has developed significant insight and knowledge about gardening, creating complex and diverse crop associations that help defend against pests and limit the risk of crop failure.
A significant problem facing farmers in Cameroon is the conflict between crop farmers and traditional transhumance herders. Broken fences and livestock grazing on cash crops and vegetables cause much strife. To adapt to these changing environmental and human conditions, traditional nomadic herders have been encouraged and in some cases more or less forced to settle in one location.
Some have developed entirely new livestock practices to rear livestock on a small amount of land, while others have abandoned tradition and converted to growing vegetables.The Rise of Agroecology
Around the world, farmers are waking up to the adverse effects of agriculture. While chemicals and machines have allowed farms to expand and increase production, there’s growing awareness about how these strategies harm the soil, ecology and ultimately, human health.
As a result, a growing number of farmers are transitioning over to more sustainable and regenerative methods that do not rely so heavily on chemical and technological means. While regenerative strategies may appear “novel” to many, especially younger generations, it’s really more of a revival of ancestral knowledge.
This includes strategies such as crop rotation, diversification, cover crops, no-till, agroforestry and integrated herd management. For example, on John Mbah’s cocoa plantation native trees grow interspersed with the cocoa trees, providing much needed shade. Other fruit-bearing trees also grow on his farm. The Frescaline family in France also discusses the benefits of having food crops and livestock together, noting “there are only benefits” to this strategy.
According to the film, “production diversification seems to be an important lever to promote agroecological processes.” However, agroecological processes also tend to be more labor intensive, and in order for farmers to make the transition, they must be properly compensated for the extra work. As noted by American rancher Harry Stoddart, “a sustainable farm must sustain the farmer first before it can sustain society and the environment.”
“If this condition is respected, this type of family agroecological agriculture could generate income in rural areas. By generating more jobs per acre, it has real potential to reduce unemployment in the north and the south. It would also help decrease the rural exodus, and prevent the swelling slums in developing countries where the population continues to grow rapidly,” the film says.The Importance of Community Supported Agriculture
Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs can make a big difference in how well a family farm can survive and thrive, as discussed by the Canadian farmer featured in this film. While the rules differ from one CSA to another, participating farms typically sign up new members during the winter months for the upcoming growing season.
As a CSA member, you basically buy a “share” of the vegetables the farm produces, and each week during growing season (usually May through October) you receive a weekly delivery of fresh food.
Joining a CSA is a powerful investment not only in your own health, but in that of your local community and economy as well. Thriving CSAs can help revitalize a community and allow residents to form strong bonds with the farmers who grow their food. This helps build a stronger, safer and more sustainable food system. It’s also really helpful for the farmer, who is able to collect money needed to seed, sow and harvest up-front.
Another way to change your diet for the better and promote a more stable and sustainable food system is to grow some of your own food, even if it’s just a few pots on your balcony. During World War II, 40 percent of the produce in the U.S. was grown in people’s backyards in so-called "Victory Gardens,” and this trend has started taking root once again.
If you’re unsure of where to start, I recommend starting out by growing sprouts. Broccoli, watercress and sunflower sprouts are foods that virtually everyone can and would benefit from growing. It's inexpensive, easy, and can radically improve your overall nutrition.Supporting Your Local Farmers Is an Investment in Your Health and Helps Build Stable, Sustainable Food Systems
As noted by Stoddart:
“The piece I think consumers have to understand is that the agricultural food system is a co-creation of consumers’ choices driving farmers’ choices. The way the system is set up today, there’s a huge wall between consumers and farmers, in the processing, distribution and retailing, where the only real thing that passes through is price. Values really don’t pass back.
So if consumers want ... a different farming system, agricultural food system, then they have to make different choices. And the only real way to do that is through direct connections, whether that’s farmers’ markets, CSA programs, working with a food coop in the city, purchasing from farmers and working with consumers.”
Your best bet for finding healthy food that is fresh and in season is to connect with a local farmer that raises crops and animals according to organic standards, even if they’re not certified organic. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
EatWild.com provides lists of certified organic farmers known to produce safe, wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other organic produce. Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund2 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.3 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.