Monday, September 29, 2008

Support the Farmlands and Live Sustainably

"No farms, no food," is the slogan the American Farmland Trust organization uses to encourage people to buy produce at their local farmers' market.  Do you shop at the farmers' market?  If not I encourage the community to buy their produce from farmers markets for the following reasons:
When you go to the grocery store, you have little to no interaction with the people who work there or who are shopping.  You walk into the store and its freezing cold and an impersonal experience.  Grocery shopping has become this mundane chore.  It's as though, the moment you walk into the frigid store and the fluorescent lights hit you, your eager to get the hell out.  When I first discovered going to the farmers' market, I encountered a whole new shopping experience.  There was live music, prepared food vendors selling, omelets, pastries, pancakes, crepes, breakfast burritos, and fresh coffee. I thought I discovered Never-Never Land, with the sun beaming down on my face, the birds chirping, the grass roots music playing, and the endless smiles and sounds laughter from the people.  Was I in still in Los Angeles?  I continued my journey with a cup coffee and strolled around.  As I walked around I couldn't help but eat; the farmers' insisted I sample their product.  I didn't even need to eat breakfast!  I ate a variety of fruits and even introduced a few new fruits to my palate.  I didn't know white raspberries existed or mango nectarines did either.  Being the health conscious guru that I am, I asked the farmer, how they grew their produce, was it organically grown, what kind of pesticides they used, how long the season was for the produce, and suggestions on how to cook it.    The farmers' gave me a wealth of information about fruits and vegetables that I never knew before. They even taught me what to look for when selecting the cream of the crop, such as peaches, apples, and plums. I knew for sure, at that moment, my days of shopping at the grocery store were over.  
 Shopping at a Farmers' markets is not only an interpersonal experience but is a sustainable way of living.  Grocery store produce has normally traveled a great distance just to get to your local grocery store.  Often, when this occurs, more energy was used to transport the goods than it was to grow it.  When it's grown locally and sold within the community it was harvested, your supporting the community and using less energy at the same time.  Of course if you live some where on the east coast, it's inevitable for foods to travel long distances.  However, we live in Southern California, where there are an abundance of farmlands surrounding us.  It is important to support farmlands so that they can keep their farm and not have to sell it to commercial property realtors, who will build condos, malls or even manufacturing companies.  If you are a "go green" individual, shopping at the farmers' market is definitely eco-friendly.
Lastly and most importantly, farmers' market produce is a lot higher in quality. The further the distance that the food has to travel, from the farm to the grocery store and finally to the consumer, indicates a lower nutrient quality.  The produce isn't as fresh because it has been picked prior to ripening.  Therefore, all the nutrients of the fruit or vegetable are not fully developed; they are prematurely picked.  Often the grocery stores will pick them early and have them sit in a manufacture where a chemical compound is released into the air that allows the food to ripen.  This is why the produce looks so fresh, almost like plastic imitations, while it's sitting out at the grocery store. However, when you eat it, the taste is bland and there is not a lot of flavor.  Farmers generally pick their produce the day before it is sold, thus producing fresh products for their customers.  
Farmers' markets promote a sustainable way living, bring people together within a community, and create a healthy way of eating fresh locally grown foods.  Try and chose local food by, shopping at farmers markets, dining at restaurants featuring local food, and even asking your grocer to stock food grown in your region.    

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Break the Fast

It's 5:00 am and my clock radio is going off. I pretend not hear it but I can't help but listen to what NPR has to say. I roll over and press the snooze button on the radio of course, thinking 10 more minutes of sleep will contribute to my restfulness. However, 1o minutes goes by and I'm just as restless as when the clock first went off. I toss the covers off and drag myself into the kitchen for my morning coffee and cereal. My cats are still asleep but as they see me walk into the kitchen, they quickly follow me in for their morning breakfast. I sometimes wonder, if they too know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
As far back as you can probably recollect you have heard from your parents, teachers, and even the media, that "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Your sick of hearing this "cliche." When someone does ask if you've eaten breakfast, you feel guilt free about answering no. It's almost like smoking. A smoker knows smoking is harmful to them, but yet, why do they continue to smoke? Yes, I know the nicotine is addicting but it is the concept that I don't understand. If we know smoking or not eating breakfast are two unhealthy habits to develop, then why do we do it?
Have you've ever heard the notion, your body is your temple? Well, it is and your body deserves to be treated like a temple. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because our body has been deprived of food for up to 12 hours during the night, depending on when dinner was eaten. If you ate dinner the previous day at 8pm and woke up the next morning at 8am and skipped out on breakfast, it will be more than 12 hours since your body has been without food! Food is energy for our body and mind. How do you expect to retain or concentrate during morning classes without having eaten something? Studies have shown our minds are 90 percent more focused when having breakfast before leaving to work or school.
Breakfast not only helps to awaken and focus our minds but it jump-starts our metabolism so that we can create a healthy appetite throughout the day. Here is a brief synopsis on the works of the digestive system: After a meal has been eaten, the components of the meal are broken down into carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These macronutrients are broken down even further, in the digestive system, where they are then absorbed in the bloodstream. As the blood sugar level rises, the pancreas secrets insulin, the hormone that acts as the "gate way key" so that glucose can enter the cells. Once glucose has successfully entered your body's cell, this powers the body's metabolism. You've got energy to circulate through your mind and keep you from bumping into walls in the early morning. However, glucose that is not needed gets converted into glycogen, where it is then stored in your liver for future energy needs, such as when someone experiences famine. For example, if you skipped out on breakfast and your sitting in class with a rumbling stomach most likely if food is not consumed within the next 20-30 minutes glycogen will be converted back into glucose to fuel your blood stream. Don't opt out for this mechanism to take place! This is damaging to your liver and eventually, if a longer period passes without eating, your body will begin to cannibalize itself!
Don't worry, a lapse of 10-12 hours between dinner and breakfast is hardly a famine but it is a long enough period to put your metabolism into a fasting, hence the name breakfast. So to all you breakfast skippers, break the fast and eat a bowl of cereal before walking out the door. You will be guaranteed a better retention span for your morning classes and a healthier metabolism.
Remember, your body is your temple so treat it like one. Lastly, I agree with the sign posted outside the window of HHS, "Health is like money, we don't value it until it is gone."