Could Strawberries be Disrupting Your Endocrine System and Causing Hypothyroidism?

Growing up in New Jersey, I remember strawberry season fondly. My sister and I would pick our own at a farm in Hightstown. The season was only for the month of June so we would eat homemade strawberry shortcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days straight. The berries were sweet, small, soft and dark red- little glorious gems of flavor. Now strawberries are available all year. Some are sweet, most are large, firm and very few are dark red- even fewer burst with any sort of flavor. Most importantly, today’s strawberries may be making us sick. The USDA Pesticide Data Program reported that 91% of conventionally grown strawberries contain 54 detectable pesticide residues with the following human health effects (1):

6 are known or probable carcinogens

11 are neurotoxins

24 are suspected hormone (endocrine) disruptors

12 are developmental or reproductive toxicants

In fact, 47% of the samples contained pesticide levels of Pyrimethanil, a suspected endocrine disruptor, above EPA tolerance levels (2). Endocrine disruptors are pesticides and industrial chemicals capable of interfering with the proper functioning of estrogen, androgen and thyroid hormones in humans and animals. Exposures can cause sterility or decreased fertility, impaired development, birth defects of the reproductive tract, and metabolic disorders (3). Endocrine disorders include diabetes, thyroiditis, osteoporosis, delayed or early puberty, and tumors; disorders currently on the rise.

And these facts are just for strawberries. Imagine the cumulative toxicity effect from all the foods you eat daily. Pesticides are a real health concern, especially for children, because their bodies are still developing. What should you do? According to the Environmental Working Group, consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, some of the most contaminated fresh fruits and vegetables are often found on many top healthy food lists: including strawberries, blueberries, spinach, kale, and tomatoes. Therefore, it is important to understand which foods contain the highest levels of toxic pesticides. Then, choose organic for the worst offenders you eat often. What’s on My Food website at http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/index.jsp is a quick and easy reference point.

My rule of thumb is that if it is delicate and leafy (celery, greens like spinach), thin skinned (apples, tomatoes) or has no protective skin (berries, stone fruits like peaches) go organic. So next time you reach for those 2 for $4 strawberry deals- stop and think poison. One more dollar for organic is not such a bad deal when compared to copay for doctor visits and prescription medicines- that is if you have health insurance.

Here’s a delicious gluten-free breakfast to start your day:

Healing Berry Yogurt Parfait Breakfast for 265 calories

1 cup sliced organic strawberries                                                        1 serving

1 cup organic plain low fat Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon organic flax seed meal

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon organic locally grown honey

Layer the strawberries, yogurt, flax seed meal, and cinnamon in a soup bowl. Drizzle with honey. Stir to combine and enjoy.

References:

1. Punzi, J., Lamont, M., Haynes, L., Espstein, R. (June 2005). USDA Pesticide Data Program. Outlooks on Pest Management, 10.1564. Retrieved August 24, 2010 from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv /getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3003674.

2. USDA Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary 2008 (2009). Agricultural Marketing Service. Retrieved August 24, 2010 from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1./getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5081750

3. Pesticide Action Network Pesticide Database (2009). Endocrine Disruptors. Retrieved August 24, 2010 from http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Docs/ref_toxicity5.html#EDSummary

North Texas GIG & Gaylord Texan Present a Taste of Gluten-Free Restaurant Event

I am excited to be the Event Director of the first in America “taste of gluten-free” with silent auction to support awareness and research for gluten intolerance:

THE GLUTEN-FREE MAKEOVER:

A HEALTHIER YOU!

Sponsored by the North Texas Gluten Intolerance Group and the Gaylord Texan

WHEN: Sunday, September 19, 2010 from 4pm to 8pm

WHERE: Gaylord Texan Glass Cactus (1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, 76051)

COST: $25 preorder and $30 at the door (children 12 and under $10). Free parking is available.

Gluten-Free Dining is one of the top 2010 restaurant trends! Sample menu selections from over 20 restaurants:

Old Hickory Steakhouse     Blue Mesa     Italianni’s     PF Changs

Grill on the Alley     Carino’s     Asian Mint     Palios Pizza Cafe

Wildwood Grill     Fresco’s     Thai Papaya Garden     GlutenOut Pasta

Fish City Grill     Chadra Mezza     Garliq     Taste Of Spain Paella

Kozy Kitchen       Central Market     Whole Foods Market

Sprouts Farmers Market     Wholesome Foods Bakery

Sample foods from over 25 vendors including:

Pamela’s, Udi’s, Hail Merry, and Hot Chocolates Bakery

Featuring gluten-free lifestyle experts including:

Sunflower Shoppe     Dr. Dee Rollins, RD     Let’s Make-Up

Moon Healing Arts            Kristi Chrysler, Autism Expert

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to: www.northtexasgig.com

Whether you are on a gluten-free diet by choice or for health reasons you will not want to miss this delicious event. In addition, we will be selling my book, The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook: The Delicious Way to Strengthen Your Immune System and Neutralize Inflammation, available at http://www.foodphilosopher.com/

I hope to see you there, Claudia


Eating a Healthy Gluten-Free Diet is a Bargain Compared to the True Cost of Chronic Inflammation

Unhealthy diets cause chronic inflammation which may result in autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease, lupus, celiac disease, and multiple sclerosis. Therefore, it is important to eat a diet of whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean protein and gluten-free whole grains.

There has been much discussion about the high cost of eating healthy. I see articles that recommend purchasing only the “dirty dozen” organic foods: peaches, strawberries, nectarines, apples, spinach, celery, pears, sweet bell peppers, cherries, potatoes, lettuce, and imported grapes. Others suggest growing your own organic produce. Eating less meat and more rice and beans has always been sage advice to save money. Some call for simply eating less. Whatever the call to action, I have yet to see someone explore the real cost of eating unhealthy. So I decided to look at some of the costs of being unhealthy and compare those numbers to the food cost of eating healthy.

How much more does it cost to buy healthy food? A 2006 study in the Journal of Nutrition1 examined actual long-term costs associated with a change from a traditional western diet (high in sugar and saturated fat) to a Mediterranean diet (high in vegetables, fruits, and omega-3 fats) in people who had suffered their first heart attack. The results showed that patients spent only an extra $10 a month on food. The study did not account for differences in the cost of health care or medicines. Just food! For $10 a month in food, the Mediterranean diet group went on to have a much better quality of life and more time with family and friends. The group experienced a 40% decrease in deaths from all causes and a significant reduction in minor health problems, including chest pain and non-fatal strokes.

Several medical studies have shown that people who eat five or more servings of vegetables a day have a lower risk of chronic disease, which is a disease that lasts longer than three months2, 3, 4. An unhealthy diet is a major contributor to long-term disease. So we started exploring the cost of chronic disease. An October, 2007, Milken Institute study, “An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease”5 reported that seven chronic diseases—cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, and mental illness—cost the nation $1.3 trillion annually, including $277 billion for treatment and nearly $1.1 trillion in lost productivity. This sum equates to $361 per month per American for 2007 for just those seven diseases. This number implies that treating chronic disease costs more than the extra cost of eating healthy.

What about the cost of eating food that gives you an allergic reaction, gas, or diarrhea or causes constipation? The Consumer Healthcare Products Association estimates that three out of four Americans take an over-the-counter (OTC) product to treat common everyday ailments like heartburn. In 2007, Americans spent approximately $17.7 billion on all OTC medicines, including an astonishing $1.4 billion on heartburn medicine alone (The Nielsen Company, 2008). This sum equates to $5 per month per American for 2007. It seems that super-sizing isn’t always a bargain.

OTCs can save the cost of a doctor visit, but sometimes a doctor visit is necessary. The 2003 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development health data claims the average American visits the doctor 9 times per year. It is safe to assume that sick people visit the doctor more often than healthy people. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance, the average copay is $20 to $30 per doctor visit, or approximately $225 per year. If hospitalization is necessary, the average annual out-of-pocket expenses for hospitalization and outpatient are $1150 for individuals. Therefore, chronically ill people with insurance may average monthly copay and out of pocket expenses of at least $115. Wow, it doesn’t take long before being ill costs real money. We haven’t even discussed the cost of prescription drugs or home care.

Let’s add these numbers up: $361 + $5 + $115= $481 per month or $16 per day. That’s a lot of broccoli, especially when you buy the organic four-pound package at Costco for $6. Even an individual membership to an upscale gym is less than $4 per day. In closing, the numbers speak for themselves: eating healthy is a bargain compared to the cost of being chronically ill.

For more information about eating a healthy gluten-free diet go to http://www.foodphilosopher.com/index.cfm.

References:

  1. Dalziel, K., Segal, S., de Lorgeril, M. 2006. A mediterranean diet is cost-effective in patients with previous myocardial infarction. Journal of Nutrition, 136:1879-1885.
  2. Liu, S., Manson, J.E., Stampfer, M.J., Holmes, M.D. 2001. The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on the risk of coronary heart disease. Annals of Internal Medicine, 134: 1106-114.
  3. He, F., Nowson, C., MacGregor, G. 2006. Fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke: meta-analysis of cohort studies. Lancet 367: 320-326.
  4. Appel, L.J., et al. 1997. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. New England Journal of Medicine 336: 1117-1124.
  5. Milken Institute Press Release, October 2, 2007. Annual Economic Impact of Chronic Disease On U.S. Economy Is $1 Trillion. Retrieved from http://www.milkeninstitute.org/newsroom/newsroom.taf?cat=press&level1=new&function=detail&ID=129