A Healthier You

If you play your cards right "'Til Death Do Us Part" could be a long time away.
If you play your cards right “‘Til Death Do Us Part” could be a long time away.

People who buy unsalted pretzels are evil. I say this to inform you of two things; (1), I am not the paragon of all things good and holy when it comes to health, and; (2), I have stared into the face to pure evil and laughed. I’m tough that way. That said, I should also share something else with you. On February 13, 2013, I began a dietitian approved diet. No fads, no cool paleo, nothing that would make me part of this week’s internet meme. Before I did that I went to a doctor and got all my fluids tested. He then gave the results to my dietitian and she was able to design a diet that worked for me. Fun note here, had I gone on the Atkins Diet I would have been dead in a month or so. My body had problems the internet couldn’t see and seeing a doctor first saved my life. You can cheer or boo as you wish, that doesn’t make it any less true. What this little story should do is remind you to see a medical professional before embarking on any life changing diet or exercise programs. We’ve grown fond of most of you and would hate to see you disappear.

As to the rest of you …. meh.

So let’s set about making the world a healthier place. Just like any good pet I’ve had all my shots. Which means if I cough around you I will not give you polio. Sadly, those like me are a diminishing breed which has led to hilarious results like measles, which was wiped out in 2000, coming back at fatal levels all over the country. In an effort to justify ignoring the decades of successful science behind vaccinations a group of non-scientists hired a group of scientists, and paid them buckets of money, to prove science wrong.

As Josh Davis reports, this went about as well as you’d expect.

The overwhelming majority of scientists agree: Vaccinations do not cause autism. Study after study has shown this, and even the original research used to peddle this myth was eventually retracted due to falsified data. But this hasn’t stopped many anti-vaccination groups from still trying to create data that says otherwise, often by commissioning studies that they hope will support their ideologies.

But for one group at least, this method of funding scientific studies to prove their point seems to have backfired. A six-year study looking into the effect that vaccinations have on the neurological development and social behavior of rhesus macaque infants, funded in part by the anti-vaccination and autism advocacy group SafeMinds, concluded that there was no evidence at all for such a link.

Way back in 1796, or twenty years after America became a country, a dude name Dr. Edward Jenner discovered that he could cure smallpox, which was killing millions, by injecting people with cow pox, which was just annoying. The latter disease produced the necessary antibodies for the body to survive the former. He got shit for that too.

Jenner was widely ridiculed. Critics, especially the clergy, claimed it was repulsive and ungodly to inocculate someone with material from a diseased animal. A satirical cartoon of 1802 showed people who had been vaccinated sprouting cow’s heads. But the obvious advantages of vaccination and the protection it provided won out, and vaccination soon became widespread. Jenner became famous and now spent much of his time researching and advising on developments in his vaccine.

Trivia: Vaccine is based on the Latin word Vacca, which means …. you guessed it, cow.

Do vaccines have side effects. Yes. Do they have them for everyone? No. A majority? No again. A sizable minority? Not even close. There’s a lovely video by Penn and Teller that you can watch which explains the odds of your kid dying, or suffering a permanent illness, after being vaccinated versus not being vaccinated. If you haven’t got a minute or so allow me to summarize thusly, get your shots if you want to live.

Our pal Josh also reports, on a related note, that scientists are part way to a cure for Malaria. Not a big deal in Chicago but absolutely huge for the rest of the world. All quinine treatment does is ameliorate the symptoms. The disease is permanent and life debilitating.

Also, as Robbie Couch reports, Dr, Robert Gallo, the dude who discovered HIV and its relationship to AIDS, has developed a vaccine that appears to be a total cure for the disease. It’s in human trials now.

All right then, now that we have you disease free, let’s get to feeding you. As of this writing there are approximately 800 MIL people who are going hungry. I don’t mean they need a Snickers, I mean they may not have eaten anything in days. And that number includes an astonishing number of Americans.

Before we get distracted by food waste, corporate greed or political corruption or indifference, let’s take a clear eyed look to see if there’s anyway we can afford to feed all these people without bankrupting the planet.

Jack Choros says the answer is a resounding yes.

Let’s talk about the joys of floating farms.

1. They could open up a lot of space for farming
In places like Singapore, land is hard to come by. Roughly 5.5 million people live in the island city.

Considering Singapore measures approximately 277 square miles, that means about 20,000 people inhabit the city for every square mile of available space. That doesn’t leave much room for farming.

The good news is that this cutting-edge smart floating farm technology is scalable and replicable, which means that as the world’s needs grow, so too can production levels.

According to the firm, 25 of the world’s 35 largest cities (New York being one of them) have nearby access to bodies of water, so these farms could theoretically be built to serve metro areas around the world.

2. They are self-regulating
These water-based farms don’t need soil to grow plants. They would use water that is already infused with vitamins and minerals, a process known as hydroponics. Of course, the plants couldn’t survive on saltwater — freshwater would be pumped into the grow facility and then sprayed evenly on plants through a mechanical system.

According to the plan, the entire farming system would be built in three levels on huge barge-like containers, with the first level housing a solar-powered energy facility and the second level using that energy to grow crops (no soil required). On the third level, you could raise fish, which would survive on the waste products from the farm.

This top to bottom system allows the sun to be used for energy, crops to grow without being harmed by saltwater, and fish to be fed and farmed. Genius!

3. They are cost effective and greener
If these farms were built near major cities, it would cost less to transport food to grocery stores. A self-sustaining ecosystem could also mean less maintenance and lower manufacturing costs, too.

And even though these techniques would be used in bodies of water, they can be applied in the air, too. Singapore-based company Sky Greens builds skyscrapers filled with plants that rotate up and down between water and sunlight, allowing vegetation to be grown 10 times more effectively than traditional forms of agriculture would allow. As a result, food is cheaper, more accessible, and more abundant.

There’s hope for the future.

These types of innovations have the potential to help regions around the world cope with the need for more food, even if they have less space.

Here’s what one of those bad boys looks like. Click on the pick for a larger image.

What do we do with all these new-found veggies? Only in America would the answer be “make a cheeseburger.” Anthony Joseph has the story.

A California-based that calls itself Impossible Foods, which has been around for approximately four years, now takes on the challenge of creating the world’s best vegetarian burger by 2016; one that looks, tastes, and even smells like an actual all-beef cheeseburger and is made from 100% plant material.

The firm has raised over $108 million in funds to support the cause. Among those investing in the cause is Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who is a well-known philanthropist that donates to good causes, such as this one. Google’s Tony Fadell is also on-board with the cause.

The company essentially has to create food substitutes that can still mimic the tastes of meat and dairy, which has been done before, but the goal is to improve on the flavor while keeping the healthy aspect of the vegetarian burger in mind.

“We start with plants – such as grains, greens and beans – and separate proteins, fats, and other nutrients from each one, selecting those that give our foods desirable flavors and textures,” Impossible Foods explains. “We then combine these proteins with vitamins, amino acids, and fats, all from plants, to make our meats and cheeses.”

Unlike many hybrid vegetarian burgers that exist today, which are a plant/meat combo with reduced caloric intake and grease, Impossible Foods will produce a cheeseburger that is made completely from plants that are broken down into the essential components, and other resources will be used to simulate flavors.

For example, unrelated to this current experiment, nuts have been used in the past to simulate dairy taste without actually using milk, which has led to a type of non-dairy cheese that can be used as a healthier alternative to actual cheese, or even for people who are lactose intolerant.

The benefits of a truly vegetarian burger that looks, tastes, and even smells like the real thing will become quickly apparent.

Yep, fewer calories, more soluble proteins and mass and, ta-daa, you’re on your way to a healthier, well fed, you. A friend of mine, who’s a cattle rancher, went to one of their demonstrations and pronounced the resulting burger “pretty damn good.” A side bonus is that these burgers are very cheap to produce compared to meat so the price will be very affordable. That means the number of people who need meat, or meat protein, in their diets but can’t afford it (around 15% of all Americans) will now be able to get it easily. It also means that people who want to eat healthier but hate food that tastes like cardboard will now have options.

“But Bill,” you whine, “I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain not to eat dead things.”

I can understand that, which is why I’m happy to report that Kate Bratskeir has good news for you.

It sounds like an ancient proverb, but it’s actually a scientific finding: In a battle of little insect versus big cow, insect wins.

A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the healthfulness of edible insects with more traditional protein like beef, pork and chicken, finding that the bugs beat out the mammals in terms of nutritional value.

Researchers at the University of Oxford used two different metrics of nutritiousness: The first, the Ofcom model, appoints a score from one to 100 based on a food’s calorie, sodium, sugar and saturated fat content per 100 grams of weight. The second, Nutrient Value Scores, offers a similar score to Ofcom, but includes vitamin and mineral values.

The Ofcom test didn’t show any significant differences between bugs and livestock. But when vitamins and minerals were taken into account for the NVS evaluation, crickets, palm weevils (beetles), honeybees and larvae scored much higher than chicken and beef in particular.

While bugs have yet to make it into mainstream American cuisine, insects are often included in meals in countries like China, Mexico and Thailand. But insect-infused products like cricket protein powders and bars are starting to creep up on U.S. store shelves, too.

Insect-eating advocates say that bugs should become the millennium’s preferred protein. One perspective argues that if vegans replaced plants with insects, they’d harm fewer animals. Others say that eating insects could solve world hunger, citing sustainability benefits and bugs’ high protein content.

If you can get past the creepy-crawler factor (hey, lobsters were once perceived as nasty sea creatures fit only for the poor), your dinner options could become a lot more interesting — and vitamin-packed!

A moment of journalistic transparency here. I have eaten many bug related dishes, including peeling a live grub worm off a tree and eating it alive. It tasted like honey. In other words, this article isn’t preaching to me.

And BONUS! Bugs are completely fine for Kosher or Halal diets. The nice people over at Insects Are Food have some simple recipes to get you started. Here’s one I’ve had before that’s absolutely delicious.

Cricket Pad Thai
Serves 6 – 8
8-10 oz dried rice stick noodles
6 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons lime juice
4 tsp. organic sugar (Turbinado, etc)
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup crickets (prepared properly)
3-4 cloves garlic
3 eggs – lightly beaten
½ cup scallions, finely chopped
2 cups bean sprouts
¼ cup crushed peanuts
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 lime (cut into wedges to serve to each person)
Combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice and organic sugar in a bowl and blend well.
Pour oil into a wok or skillet, and cook the crickets over medium-high heat.
Push crickets to one side and scramble the eggs on the other side of the wok or skillet. Remove crickets and eggs and set aside in bowl or on plate.
Add garlic and scallions and fry until soft.
Add sauce mixture, crickets and eggs back into the wok or skillet, and warm thoroughly.
Cook rice noodles for about 10 minutes in boiling water.
Remove and drain noodles, and add to wok or skillet.
Add in bean sprouts and toss thoroughly, being careful not to break the noodles. Top with peanuts, cilantro, and garnish with a lime wedge.
This dish goes great with Vietnamese spring rolls.

Yes it does. It also can be served with a dipping dish filled with your favorite Asian hot sauce.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.
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