Wednesday, July 31, 2013
There’s no denying the rising costs of health care in our nation. Health spending has been rising steadily for several years. Americans spend nearly 20% of their income on healthcare costs, while on average spending 10% of their income on food. This disparity affects the health of our nation and must be acknowledged and addressed. Considering the age-old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” may be the first step to attempt to reduce healthcare spending—and the key place to start is food consumption. If you start to consider your diet a form of preventative health care, you might start rethinking you daily meals.
In our age of industrial agriculture, cheap food is easy to access—and is often loaded with fats, calories and chemicals that negatively affect our bodies and lead to health problems. How does your body feel after you consume a double cheeseburger or a bag of chips compared to after consuming a plate of veggies or fresh fruit? That said, how easy is it to access a bag of chips compared to fresh vegetables at your local convenience store? It may be easier and cheaper to obtain “junk food” for your daily snack, but consider the future health ramifications to which these foods may contribute when making your daily choices. It was Hippocrates who stated, “Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food.”
It’s easy to wander down the grocery store aisle in a rush, heading for your favorite snack food to grab and go. Next time you are in this situation, pause to ponder an alternative. Instead of limiting your food budget now, why not opt to spend a little more on better quality foods to prevent future health complications. Hey, why not opt to forgo the supermarket and head to your local farmers’ market to purchase foods which will not only nourish yourself, but will help nourish your community through economic stimulus and respect for the land and animals. Find your local farmers market listing on Seacoast Eat Local’s website here: http://www.seacoasteatlocal.org/seacoastharvest/index.php?page=farmersmarkets.
Starting to pay attention to the true value of foods and making nourishing purchases may be the first step to lowering health costs. It was Thomas Edison who stated, “The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” The future is now! The brightest minds in history have discussed the nature of one’s diet and health. Let’s start recognizing the power of healthy eating and make responsible choices for our health and our future. Take the first step toward lowering health costs and rethink your diet as preventative health care.
Monday, July 29, 2013
In today’s world, many women attend college, get successful jobs, and travel the world, all before they even consider having a baby. In my current situation, 20 years old, Dietetics major, homework all the time, I cannot even imagine having a child. Birth control helps women establish themselves and become financially stable before getting pregnant. According to a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, 65% of women report using birth control because they cannot afford to have a child. 69% of women reported not being able to take on the financial responsibility of a new baby. Financial stability is the number one reason women use contraceptives. Not only does birth control help women become financially independent, but it also can help cut the cost of Medicaid. The Guttmacher Institute has research that states that for every dollar spent helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies, $3.74 is saved in Medicare expenses.
The Affordable Care Act, (ACA) is making the costs of getting birth control very easy on women! For women who have health insurance, the ACA eliminates out-of-pocket costs. The ACA is also eliminated all out-of-pocket costs for all preventive visits for all Americans. Preventive services for women include mammograms and annual well-visits with your healthcare provider.
I recently went to Rite Aid and got my contraception prescription refilled and was so surprised when I didn’t have to pay a copay! It usually costs me $17 dollars a month! If you are wondering why your birth control hasn’t been free yet this year, the official start date for this was August 1, 2012. But different insurance companies have different dates when plan changes take effect, so call your insurance provider to find out when this date will be for you!
Friday, July 26, 2013
I love almost everything about London, but what I don’t love is their lack of recycling. It is impossible to find a recycling bin at Regent’s College, where I currently study. Quite frankly it breaks my heart. Throughout the city you can find them, but they are not nearly as common as they are in Durham or even Boston for that matter. There is really only a bin for bottles and it looks exactly like the “rubbish” bin next to it. I had to swat my friend’s trash out of her hand once when she almost put it in the recycling bin. If she almost did it, I can imagine there are quite a few people who throw rubbish in the recycling bin without as much as glancing over to see which one it was. This leads me to believe that the city recycles very few bottles from these facilities. In addition to the lack of recycling, it seems like once the sun goes down, the trash comes out. There are piles and piles of them that seem to pour out of stores when the sun goes down. There are enough people, cars and bikers to dodge on the sidewalks and streets of London without the heaps of trash bags in front of every store. I don’t think I have ever noticed any separation between trash and recyclables in these piles either. I assume this means most shops do not recycle.
I looked further into this in hopes of finding something less disappointing. I looked at the City of London website and found that there are laws about trash, instructions on how to recycle, and some objectives the city of London is working on. I was correct in noticing that the trash seems to come out at sundown. The law is that there can be no trash on the sidewalks or streets between 8:00am and 6:00pm. Between 6:00pm and midnight there are two hour restrictions and there are no restrictions between midnight and 8:00am. This explains why after midnight you feel like you are walking through a dump because of the amount of trash piled on the sidewalks. The good news though, is that there are laws that require the trash to be tidy. The bags must be tied and no waste is allowed to escape. This ensures that after the bags are removed there is not waste left to rot or to attract vermin. Thanks to these laws the streets are kept clean between eight in the morning and sic in the afternoon. Businesses are also required, by law, to hire a trash removal service to properly dispose of their waste at the end of the day. This is beneficial because the company always knows what to do with their waste and it prevents trash from being left to litter the streets.
This is all great, however the “objectives” listed on the City of London’s website are quite vague and provide no explanation of how the city plans on executing these ideas. I chose three out of the nine to discuss because I thought they had the most initiative.
- “Waste reduction.” This seems fairly obvious but what the site discussed the most was convincing residents to reduce their waste through reusing items and recycling. No initiatives were proposed.
- Provide an opportunity to recycle. This objective is a good start if residents take advantage of it. It states that the city makes as many materials as possible recyclable and aims to remove them from the household as soon as possible.
- Making provided services affordable for businesses. This is a good one because since it is the law to hire a garbage removal service it might as well be affordable. It is nice that the city has made an effort to do so. This way, businesses will not be tempted to dispose of rubbish incorrectly and/or illegally.
Overall, it is surprising that in such a big city there is such a lack of excitement and encouragement to recycle. I suppose it is sort of a new fad in the U.S. but one would think London would have jumped on this band wagon as well. Perhaps these objectives are the start of a recycling movement here in London. They are off to a great start with the laws currently in place.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
What are antioxidants anyway? Most people understand that they’re beneficial to health, but may be unsure of what they are or how they work! Our cells need oxygen to perform vital tasks, such as transferring energy stored in food, or for powering our muscles. When our cells use energy, they produce a by-product of organic molecules known as free-radicals. Unfortunately, these free radicals are damaging to our bodies. They can lead to aging, tissue damage, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. This is where antioxidants come in! They are used to help prevent and repair the damage of the free radicals. The most common antioxidants are Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as Carotenoids, Lutein, Lycopene, and Selenium. Below is a list of foods to help you find these antioxidants!
Vitamin A and Carotenoids- Carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apricots, cantaloupe- Look for BRIGHT colored fruits and veggies! If you didn’t know- carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments in foods (mostly red, yellow, and orange) that can be converted into vitamin A in your body.
Vitamin E- Sunflower seeds, almonds, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, and kiwi
Vitamin C- Strawberries, oranges, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, green leafy vegetables, and broccoli
Lutein- A green carotenoid pigment found in kale, broccoli, kiwi, spinach, brussels sprouts, peas, zucchini, and other green leafy vegetables
Lycopene- A red carotenoid pigment found in grapefruit, watermelon, and tomato products
Selenium- A trace mineral found in eggs, red meat, grains, fish, shellfish, chicken, and garlic
Other common antioxidants include Flavonoids which are found in red wine, tea, and cranberries, and Lignans which is found in oatmeal, flaxseed, and barley.
Learn more about antioxidants at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; they have great resources on usage, safety and general information!
Monday, July 22, 2013
Being a college student means pinching every penny you have. Whether that means paying for lunch with change, waiting to go grocery shopping until your cabinets are bare or skipping out on going for drinks with your friends because your wallet is empty, almost every students feels the pressure of having limited money. One way to save on your spending is by buying generic versions of the products you use. You can by generic versions of almost everything, but one generic thing that can save you tons of money is drugs, when you are sick or have a cold.
Unfortunately, a lot of times when people are struggling for money or do not have health insurance, they go without prescription drugs that are needed. In fact, 13% of adults did not take a prescription drug that they needed because of its high cost. Generic drugs have the same exact ingredients as brand name drugs, but are sold at a lower cost to promote competition in the marketplace. As of now, one fifth of Americans ask their doctors to prescribe cheaper medicines than the first choice. If more Americans inquired about generic drugs, it could help save a lot of money. According to Healthy UNH, if USNH employees just increased generic drug use by 10%, which is not a lot, we could save $250,000. I don't know about you, but I'm always down for saving money, especially if I'm going to get the same results either way.
Friday, July 19, 2013
During the first weekend in April, my best friend and I traveled to Morocco! Morocco is located in Northern Africa, just across the Gibraltar Straight from Spain. Since the Islamic invasion of the 7th century AD, Morocco has been a Muslim country so everyone speaks Arabic. The part of the country that we stayed in was very green, full of fertile soil, ideal for all kinds of crops like almonds, olives, dates, lemons, figs, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, melons, oranges, and potatoes. It was nice to be in a country that has their own food, unlike London which, like I said in a previous blog post, is a melting pot of different cuisines. Everything Moroccans need to cook with, they grow within walking distance of the place they plan on cooking it.
Moroccans stew everything and often serve it on couscous. This is a pretty standard meal throughout the country, we learned. Our first meal consisted of a round, flat bread, a delicious salad and then a chicken and chickpea stew served over tasty couscous. Our next meal was essentially the same thing. This meal is called tajine, a lamb or poultry stew. The round bread we ate is traditionally served at every meal. It is delicious. Everything tasted relatively similar because Moroccans typically stick to using the same six or seven spices in their cooking: cumin, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, ground red pepper and coriander. These dishes often have a unique sweet-spicy taste. Saffron makes the stews a dark red color in addition to the flavor they add. Couscous is a staple food. I did not have one Moroccan meal without couscous, which I did not mind because I love the tiny pasta. Dessert is important in Moroccan cuisine as well. We were never denied dessert; however, we found that despite their love of sweets, after dinner or lunch we were always served an apple and a banana on a plate. It was not exactly the dessert we had in mind, but perhaps we needed the nutrients. Of course we usually did not eat either because the water is not safe to drink in Morocco therefore the water they use to wash the fruits is also unsafe. There were many honey-based sweets sold on the streets, though so we were able to get our sugar-fix in that way.
The trip was an incredible one. The landscapes were truly amazing. It was just an added bonus that the food was so good. It tasted exactly like you would imagine a Northern African meal to taste! If you are interested in making tajine or some other Moroccan meals, follow the link above!
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Why should people buy organic? For a start, non-organic fruits and vegetables are covered in dangerous and toxic pesticides. These deadly chemicals have been shown to cause cancer and central nervous system damage. Not only do non-organic fruits and vegetables affect our health, but they also can harm wildlife that live in the area that they are being grown. The pesticides get into our drinking water, harming both us and the animals that drink it.
The five foods that are best to have as organic are apples, bell peppers, carrots, celery and strawberries. The five foods that do not need to be organic are asparagus, avocado, sweet peas, grapefruit, onions, sweet corn, pineapple and mango because they have a very low pesticide count. If you decide to go non-organic, to reduce the pesticides you ingest, be sure to peel and wash the vegetables and fruit, and steam cook vegetables like spinach or lettuce.
Although organics have more health advantages, they can cost up to 40 or 50% more than non-organic fruits and vegetables. ABC news provides us with a great comparison of organic produce costs vs. non-organic produce costs:
Fuji Apple x4
So why is organic produce so much more expensive that non-organic produce? The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations provides us with some reasons why. Organic food is in demand. More people want organic produce, which means higher production costs and labor costs. Organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables must be completely separate during transportation and processing to avoid cross contamination. Farmers also work harder at maintaining the life of these fruits and vegetables without the use of pesticides. They will put in long working hours to keep their produce fresh and edible. For more information as to why organic vegetables are more expensive, visit the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s webpage.
Monday, July 15, 2013
A recent study out of the University of Granada has linked participating in physical activity with longer attention spans. Better cognitive abilities such as time perception were also higher in physically active participants. It has been generally known that physical activity lends itself to better overall health outcomes, but this study clearly illustrates a strong relationship between physical activity and longer attention spans. Antonio Luque Casado, a researcher from the University of Granada’s Department of Experimental Psychology made it clear that the study’s results are “preliminary” and future investigations must take place to confirm the correlation. However, implications from this study must be realized. What can be drawn from the results of this study and applied to today’s society? Perhaps we can consider the incredible spike in attention deficit disorder diagnoses in children in the past decade.
According to the CDC, as of 2007, 2.7 million youth ages 4-17 were receiving medication treatment for ADHD. This figure is only 66.3% of those with a current diagnosis in 2007. More recent statistics were unavailable, but I only expect them to be higher. Although the data is six years old, it is absolutely astonishing… 2.7 million youth on medication to help them concentrate?! Perhaps children are over-diagnosed with ADHD and in reality are not receiving adequate time for physical activity. We are all aware that this generation of children may be the first to live shorter lives than their parents due to chronic health conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. We must evaluate our society’s pressing health issues and realize their complexities and multidimensional factors. We must acknowledge noted research studies, such as this one, and make evidence-based health policy decisions. If physical activity helps increase an individual’s attention span, we must demand that schools and youth programs provide sufficient physical activities such as recess and physical education classes. If youth are given more time to be active, we may be able to address attention deficit disorder and obesity, two pressing health issues, with one solution.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Being college students, we get enough anxiety in the form of schoolwork, midterms, work and money issues, and the last thing we need is any more anxiety to add to the pile. Unfortunately, with the increase in technology in the past decade, a new form of anxiety is emerging known as "cyberchondria." Cyberchondria is the internet version of hypochondria where people go online and self diagnose themselves with having certain diseases and sicknesses and think the worst. Thirty-five percent of Americans have gone online to self diagnosis themselves at one point or another. Having the internet is a great tool to have and gives you the ability to learn about anything at any given time, however it can also lead to a lot of misdiagnoses and make you think your condition is worse than what it is. I know that in the past if I have been sick with something that I didn't recognize, I have gone online and searched my symptoms and my common cold has come back as a more serious infection. Doing this can cause a lot of stress and anxiety to form when you really have nothing to worry about. The best thing you can do if you are feeling sick or just feel the need to check up on yourself is go to the doctor, don't make yourself worry with all of the information on the internet.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Fairtrade products are all over the UK. In the States, you may only hear about these products when you are looking for them or in health food stores. They are not mainstream yet, but in the UK, Fairtrade is growing bigger and bigger by the year. This came as a surprise to me because the English do not seem to care about the quality of their food or where it comes from. Evidently, I was quite wrong.
The Fairtrade Foundation, for those that are not aware is a nonprofit foundation that encourages small-scale farmers usually in underdeveloped countries to take control of their product and improve their quality of life in doing so. The foundation protects the rights of workers so that they may be safe and healthy at work, while ensuring freedom of association, no discrimination and no illegal child labor. The Secretary of State for International Development said, “Trade drives growth which in turn creates jobs and wealth in communities. Through trade we can help people to pull themselves out of poverty. Ensuring farmers and other producers get a fair price for their produce and effort is central to this.”
Fairtrade prices its products such that the costs of sustainable production are affordable and possible for the producer. This eliminates the anxiety caused by a drop in revenue due to a sudden drop in demand of the product so the producer can maintain production confidently. The confidence of the producer reduces the chances of his or her product or company to be exploited by major industries.
The foundation certifies these small farms and creates premiums to give to farmers to give to their workers to use however they feel would be most beneficial. The premium can only be used for the benefit of the workers, whether that is economically, socially, or for the benefit of their families and community. This gives the famers some stability knowing that their workers are getting the money they need to take care of themselves and their families, and the farmer does not have to worry if he or she cannot afford to pay them.
London is one of 750 cities worldwide that uses Fairtrade in municipal purchasing, schools and retail outlets. Products that have received the Fairtrade seal and thus follow the demands of the foundation have experienced a 40% growth each year for the past five years. This shows that consumers in the UK are paying attention to this seal which is quite exciting. Hopefully the United States will soon follow suit.
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