The truth about GMO’s

I try to purchase mostly organic food, much to the amusement of 2 of my nieces when they come to visit.  One in particular seems to hunt down things in my cupboards to see if she can find “organic” written on anything, so she can gleefully announce “Oh, that is organic too!”  I won’t bother going into all the benefits of organic foods in this post, but I do want to say that when you make the decision to purchase and consume organic foods, in particular locally grown, you are making a statement to support smaller farms.  Okay, I know that is not exclusively the case.  When I buy a tub of Earthbound organic greens, I am certainly aware they weren’t grown in Ontario, but on a huge California farm probably.  The point is, as well as wanting to reap the benefits of nutritious organic food, I want to avoid synthetic and chemical pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers and genetically modified foods.  Monsanto is the most well known of companies that dominate the GMO field and there are some interesting videos and documentaries about them – “The World According to Monsanto” is one.  I have just come across another shorter film about how farmers get stuck in the GMO cycle – It certainly dispels the theory that GMO crops are sprayed less. (This web site has so many interesting short clips about a wide variety of topics.  I encourage you to have a look at all that it has to offer and sign up for email alerts when new videos are posted on topics that interest you.)

Monsanto doesn’t make it easy to opt out.  It is becoming harder for farmers to find non GMO seeds.  It is no longer far fetched to state that our food supply is becoming more controlled by giant corporate interests.  Where will this lead for our children’s children? Remember that every time you purchase organic you are supporting a farmer who has opted out of this vicious cycle of GMO’s.

April 1, 2012 – I just watched a 10 year old film (I didn’t realize it was that old until I saw an ancient computer monitor on someone’s desk!) called Supper Deconstructed about a restauranteur who goes on a quest to find out more about where his food comes from after a customer asks him if any of his food contains GMO’s. He travels across the globe and speaks with farmers and government (Monsanto would not give him an interview) about bio technology and how it has infiltrated our food supply and we don’t even know when it is in our food most of the time (unless you buy organic of course). The film reminds us that this technology is wiping out our food variety and the ability to save our seeds for future generations. Food has become patentable and those who hold patents yield a lot of power! We still have the power of choice choice and that is why it is so important to make your voice heard. Tell your produce manager that you don’t want genetically modified foods and make your purchases send loud and clear messages.


Have you had your flax today?

Flaxseed is an inexpensive super food that we should all be consuming daily.  It is so easy to incorporate this habit into your daily routine.  Did you know Canada is the leading grower of this crop?  A general maintenance dose for a healthy adult is 2 tbsp ground flax daily.  This amount will give you 2.6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fat and 72 calories. Flaxseeds are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an anti-inflammatory omega 3 fat, which most of us do not get enough of.  They are high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble) and are the highest known (up to 800 times more than other tested foods) in anti cancer phytoestrogenic lignans that are believed to reduce hormone related cancers such as breast and prostate as well as colorectol cancer. The phytoestrogen content of flax is a hormone regulator/balancer, so women experiencing hot flashes and pms symptoms may benefit from regular flax consumption. Flax can lower cholesterol and promote regular bowel movements.  If you are not presently consuming flax and want to introduce this superfood to your diet, be sure to drink enough water or you could end up constipated. Up until recently, you had to consume your flax ground, otherwise the tiny seeds would pass right through you.  Recently, some manufactures have introduced shelled flax, where the seed is split but still digestable. The oil is still safely contained in the kernel so it doesn’t need refrigeration. Some of the brands include garlic or roasted maple to give you extra ways to use it.  I like to add the shelled flax with roasted maple to oatmeal for a mild punch of sweetness and some crunch to the otherwise pasty (but still good) consistency of oatmeal. One thing to look out for when purchasing flax is to never purchase preground or milled flax seeds directly from a bulk bin.  Once flax has been ground, the beneficial fats can go rancid quickly and it must be kept in the fridge or freezer, ideally in an airtight container, like a ziploc bag.  Optimally, you want to buy whole flax seeds (that do not require refrigeration) and grind them yourself in something like a coffee grinder (that you don’t use for coffee, unless you like coffee flavoured flax!) and use them immediately.  While this is nutritionally the best you can do, it is time consuming and not everyone will go to that length.  Next best, would be to grind up a few weeks worth at a time and store it in a air tight container in the freezer.  After that, you could always purchase it pre-ground or milled from a vacuum sealed or nitrogen flushed bag.  If it isn’t vacuum sealed and it doesn’t say “nitrogen flushed”, I wouldn’t buy it.  Some brands (like Bob’s Red Mill) sell it pre-ground, but neither vacuum sealed nor nitrogen flushed.

So, how should you consume flax?  I add it to a smoothie every day and as mentioned above, add it to oatmeal.  I also use it as an egg substitute. Even if you can eat eggs, this comes in handy if you are in the middle of baking and short an egg or two.  For each egg, combine 1 tbsp. of ground flax with 3 tbsp. of water.  Mix and let it sit for 5 minutes.  It will start to become gelatinous, almost like scrambled raw eggs.  This can be used in recipes where egg serves as a binding agent – pancakes, cookies, loaves, cakes etc. Don’t try it for quiche or angel food cake!  You can experiment and substitute 1/4 cup ground flax for 1/4 cup flour in many recipes.

The mucilage qualities of flax are soothing and healing to our intestinal mucous membranes and can be made into a tea of sorts using the whole seed.  Bring to a boil 2 1/2 cups of pure filtered water (please no chlorinated, fluoridated tap water!) and 2 rounded tsp. of whole flax seed.  Turn the heat off and let sit until cooled.  Strain out the flax seeds.  You could add cinnamon, cloves, ginger or lemon to taste to the water before boiling.  If you suffer from an ulcer or excess levels of hydrochloric acid, this tea would be very good to drink.    Taken in this way, it is the mucilage component of flax that you want.

According to the Flax Council of Canada brown and gold flax are equally nutritious. Remember that before you pay more for gold flax.