Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"What a mind job!"

While doing a little online research, I came across an article that just blew my mind.  With all the questions about what foods are good for us, and what foods are bad, the findings in this article are a clarion call about how much we are lied to when it comes to the food we eat and feed our children.  This article by Nina Teicholz who has written a book on the subject, talks about the fact that after many years of misinformation fed to us by the Food and Drug Administration, and the American Heart Association regarding saturated fats causing heart disease, a recent study study concluded that this is not true.  How could this be?  This seems to be contrary to the basic tenets of dietary science, and everything we have been taught almost since birth.  This article reminded me of quote from the movie The Matrix.  Cypher tells Neo, "What a mind job!"  Continue on, dear reader, and get your mind blown just like I did.



"Saturated fat does not cause heart disease"—or so concluded a big study published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. How could this be? The very cornerstone of dietary advice for generations has been that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat should be avoided because they clog our arteries. For many diet-conscious Americans, it is simply second nature to opt for chicken over sirloin, canola oil over butter.

The new study's conclusion shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with modern nutritional science, however. The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.

Our distrust of saturated fat can be traced back to the 1950s, to a man named Ancel Benjamin Keys, a scientist at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Keys was formidably persuasive and, through sheer force of will, rose to the top of the nutrition world—even gracing the cover of Time magazine—for relentlessly championing the idea that saturated fats raise cholesterol and, as a result, cause heart attacks.

This idea fell on receptive ears because, at the time, Americans faced a fast-growing epidemic. Heart disease, a rarity only three decades earlier, had quickly become the nation's No. 1 killer. Even President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in 1955. Researchers were desperate for answers.

As the director of the largest nutrition study to date, Dr. Keys was in an excellent position to promote his idea. The "Seven Countries" study that he conducted on nearly 13,000 men in the U.S., Japan and Europe ostensibly demonstrated that heart disease wasn't the inevitable result of aging but could be linked to poor nutrition.

Critics have pointed out that Dr. Keys violated several basic scientific norms in his study. For one, he didn't choose countries randomly but instead selected only those likely to prove his beliefs, including Yugoslavia, Finland and Italy. Excluded were France, land of the famously healthy omelet eater, as well as other countries where people consumed a lot of fat yet didn't suffer from high rates of heart disease, such as Switzerland, Sweden and West Germany. The study's star subjects—upon whom much of our current understanding of the Mediterranean diet is based—were peasants from Crete, islanders who tilled their fields well into old age and who appeared to eat very little meat or cheese.

As it turns out, Dr. Keys visited Crete during an unrepresentative period of extreme hardship after World War II. Furthermore, he made the mistake of measuring the islanders' diet partly during Lent, when they were forgoing meat and cheese. Dr. Keys therefore undercounted their consumption of saturated fat. Also, due to problems with the surveys, he ended up relying on data from just a few dozen men—far from the representative sample of 655 that he had initially selected. These flaws weren't revealed until much later, in a 2002 paper by scientists investigating the work on Crete—but by then, the misimpression left by his erroneous data had become international dogma.

In 1961, Dr. Keys sealed saturated fat's fate by landing a position on the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association, whose dietary guidelines are considered the gold standard. Although the committee had originally been skeptical of his hypothesis, it issued, in that year, the country's first-ever guidelines targeting saturated fats. The U.S. Department of Agriculture followed in 1980.

Other studies ensued. A half-dozen large, important trials pitted a diet high in vegetable oil—usually corn or soybean, but not olive oil—against one with more animal fats. But these trials, mainly from the 1970s, also had serious methodological problems. Some didn't control for smoking, for instance, or allowed men to wander in and out of the research group over the course of the experiment. The results were unreliable at best.

But there was no turning back: Too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Dr. Keys's hypothesis. A bias in its favor had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense. As Harvard nutrition professor Mark Hegsted said in 1977, after successfully persuading the U.S. Senate to recommend Dr. Keys's diet for the entire nation, the question wasn't whether Americans should change their diets, but why not? Important benefits could be expected, he argued. And the risks? "None can be identified," he said.

In fact, even back then, other scientists were warning about the diet's potential unintended consequences. Today, we are dealing with the reality that these have come to pass.

One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970's. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we're eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Even seemingly healthy low-fat foods, such as yogurt, are stealth carb-delivery systems, since removing the fat often requires the addition of fillers to make up for lost texture—and these are usually carbohydrate-based.

The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.

The real surprise is that, according to the best science to date, people put themselves at higher risk for these conditions no matter what kind of carbohydrates they eat. Yes, even unrefined carbs. Too much whole-grain oatmeal for breakfast and whole-grain pasta for dinner, with fruit snacks in between, add up to a less healthy diet than one of eggs and bacon, followed by fish. The reality is that fat doesn't make you fat or diabetic. Scientific investigations going back to the 1950s suggest that actually, carbs do.

The second big unintended consequence of our shift away from animal fats is that we're now consuming more vegetable oils. Butter and lard had long been staples of the American pantry until Crisco, introduced in 1911, became the first vegetable-based fat to win wide acceptance in U.S. kitchens. Then came margarines made from vegetable oil and then just plain vegetable oil in bottles.
All of these got a boost from the American Heart Association—which Procter & Gamble, the maker of Crisco oil, coincidentally helped launch as a national organization. In 1948, P&G made the AHA the beneficiary of the popular 
"Walking Man" radio contest, which the company sponsored. The show raised $1.7 million for the group and transformed it (according to the AHA's official history) from a small, underfunded professional society into the powerhouse that it remains today.

After the AHA advised the public to eat less saturated fat and switch to vegetable oils for a "healthy heart" in 1961, Americans changed their diets. Now these oils represent 7% to 8% of all calories in our diet, up from nearly zero in 1900, the biggest increase in consumption of any type of food over the past century.

This shift seemed like a good idea at the time, but it brought many potential health problems in its wake. In those early clinical trials, people on diets high in vegetable oil were found to suffer higher rates not only of cancer but also of gallstones. And, strikingly, they were more likely to die from violent accidents and suicides. Alarmed by these findings, the National Institutes of Health convened researchers several times in the early 1980s to try to explain these "side effects," but they couldn't. (Experts now speculate that certain psychological problems might be related to changes in brain chemistry caused by diet, such as fatty-acid imbalances or the depletion of cholesterol.)

We've also known since the 1940's that when heated, vegetable oils create oxidation products that, in experiments on animals, lead to cirrhosis of the liver and early death. For these reasons, some mid-century chemists warned against the consumption of these oils, but their concerns were allayed by a chemical fix: Oils could be rendered more stable through a process called hydrogenation, which used
a catalyst to turn them from oils into solids.

From the 1950's on, these hardened oils became the backbone of the entire food industry, used in cakes, cookies, chips, breads, frosting, fillings, and frozen and fried food. Unfortunately, hydrogenation also produced trans fats, which since the 1970's have been suspected of interfering with basic cellular functioning and were recently condemned by the Food and Drug Administration for their ability to raise our levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Yet paradoxically, the drive to get rid of trans fats has led some restaurants and food manufacturers to return to using regular liquid oils—with the same long-standing oxidation problems. These dangers are especially acute in restaurant fryers, where the oils are heated to high temperatures over long periods.
The past decade of research on these oxidation products has produced a sizable body of evidence showing their dramatic inflammatory and oxidative effects, which implicates them in heart disease and other illnesses such as Alzheimer's. Other newly discovered potential toxins in vegetable oils, called monochloropropane diols and glycidol esters, are now causing concern among health authorities in Europe.  In short, the track record of vegetable oils is highly worrisome—and not remotely what Americans bargained for when they gave up butter and lard.

Cutting back on saturated fat has had especially harmful consequences for women, who, due to hormonal differences, contract heart disease later in life and in a way that is distinct from men. If anything, high total cholesterol levels in women over 50 were found early on to be associated with longer life. This counter-intuitive result was first discovered by the famous Framingham study on heart-disease risk factors in 1971 and has since been confirmed by other research.

Since women under 50 rarely get heart disease, the implication is that women of all ages have been worrying about their cholesterol levels needlessly. Yet the Framingham study's findings on women were omitted from the study's conclusions. And less than a decade later, government health officials pushed their advice about fat and cholesterol on all Americans over age 2—based exclusively on data from middle-aged men.

Sticking to these guidelines has meant ignoring growing evidence that women on diets low in saturated fat actually increase their risk of having a heart attack. The "good" HDL cholesterol drops precipitously for women on this diet (it drops for men too, but less so). The sad irony is that women have been especially rigorous about ramping up on their fruits, vegetables and grains, but they now suffer from higher obesity rates than men, and their death rates from heart disease have reached parity.

Seeing the U.S. population grow sicker and fatter while adhering to official dietary guidelines has put nutrition authorities in an awkward position. Recently, the response of many researchers has been to blame "Big Food" for bombarding Americans with sugar-laden products. No doubt these are bad for us, but it is also fair to say that the food industry has simply been responding to the dietary guidelines issued by the AHA and USDA, which have encouraged high-carbohydrate diets and until quite recently said next to nothing about the need to limit sugar.  Indeed, up until 1999, the AHA was still advising Americans to reach for "soft drinks," and in 2001, the group was still recommending snacks of "gum-drops" and "hard candies made primarily with sugar" to avoid fatty foods.

Our half-century effort to cut back on the consumption of meat, eggs and whole-fat dairy has a tragic quality. More than a billion dollars have been spent trying to prove Ancel Keys's hypothesis, but evidence of its benefits has never been produced. It is time to put the saturated-fat hypothesis to bed and to move on to test other possible culprits for our nation's health woes.

Ms. Teicholz has been researching dietary fat and disease for nearly a decade. Her book, "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet," is published by Simon & Schuster.  For more information, click here.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My aching head!

Hello folks!  Due to health care concerns, I will not have my normal article this week.  However, I came across an article last week and I want to share the link with you.  One of the issues I am going through relates to a severe headache, and after seeing this article, I plan on using a number of the methods to beat it naturally.  If you are having issues with headaches, or know someone who does, and is interested in taking a natural approach, I invite you to click the link below.

Till next time,



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Featured Wholesale Partner: Oxendale's Market

We are beginning a new series on our blog, where every so often we will be highlighting one of our valued "Wholesale Partners" who feature Winter Goddess Foods products in their store or shop.  We are proud to introduce these wonderful folks who support our business, and provide you with a little insight about the way they operate within our world.


No doubt you have heard the phrase "Local boy makes good."  While this is largely known as an American expression, everyone around the world can relate to it, and can point to someone in their community who has come up from humble beginnings to make a difference in their own  neighborhood.  Neil Oxendale is one such person.

Nestled within the quiet Nokomis neighborhood sits what the local folks refer to as "the best kept secret of South Minneapolis."  At first glance, Oxendale's Market may look a bit like your typical neighborhood supermarket, but there is definitely more here than meets the eye.  Oxendale's is a full service market that lacks the "big box" feel.  The idea behind it is very much intentional, in that this store reflects Neil's vision of a grocery that is responsive to the desires and needs of the people who shop there.

Neil Oxendale
"You cannot set up shop in a place and then tell people, 'this is what we are offering you, take it or leave it.'  You ask your people, 'what is it you want?'  Then you listen to what they have to say."

This idea of being receptive to the needs of customers has been a part of this quiet, unassuming man's mindset from a young age, when he began working at this same location at age fifteen.  Things were a lot different back then, when the store that existed there was run strictly for immediate profit, and was not a nice place to shop.  Neil started working for them in the produce department, and eventually rose to the night manager position.  At that time, customers would come to him with suggestions of products that they could carry, or even improvements to the store itself.  Unfortunately when he passed the suggestions on to the owners, they fell upon deaf ears.  Eventually the store fell into disarray, and finally closed its doors.

In 2007, after scrimping, saving and much sacrifice, Neil Oxendale purchased his former place of employment, with a mind to develop a market that actually served the community and made food shopping a pleasure.  It was an uphill battle during the first four years, and things weren't always easy.  During the economic downturn, Neil brought in his family to help, which turned into the first of his two great  moves.  Not only did the store survive, but it began to thrive.  His second great move was his discovery and decision to carry locally made products in the store.

Initially Neil carried all of the typical name brand items that every grocery store was supposed to carry, but he was looking for something more to offer his customers.  He attended the requisite food shows geared to buyers like himself, but found them to be boring and uninspiring.  Then one day he attended a show and met Brian Ames, a local honey producer, and everything changed.  Ames informed him about Co-op Partners, a distributor of local organic produce and products, and Neil discovered a whole new world.

"I found out that there was this whole new subculture, local producers who were not only in business for themselves, but who actually cared about their products and the people who bought them, and passionate when talking about them.  It was that enthusiasm which struck a chord in me."

After his fateful meeting with Ames, Neil Oxendale began to seek out more and more local producers, and incorporated their products on his shelves.  Initially there was a little resistance from some of his customers when things at the store began to change.  He would hear cries of, "I don't want that organic stuff.  You don't know what they put in it!" The irony that the fresher local organic products that he was bringing into the market were far better than the products he currently held on the shelves isn't lost on him.  So in his own quiet bit of food activism, Neil used a strategy of "equal placement" while stocking his shelves, by placing a local or organic product next to an established name brand, to give his customers a choice in what they can buy.

Neil saw a trend developing where people are beginning to ask questions about

the food they eat, and demanding better, fresher products for their family. So little by little, he began to slowly educate his patrons on the benefits of local and organic products, by inviting the local producers to the store to sample and talk about what makes their products so good.  Because of his growing belief that supporting local was the right thing to do, he began incorporating the products of more and more local vendors into his store, until rather than having to seek them out, these producers began to come to him.

He spoke about why he prefers small producers over large food corporations.

"Seven years ago, I was given a chance," he says.  "I want to do the same for others.  My focus is on having all the local guys in my store.  There are a lot of good local products out there that need to be brought out into the forefront.  In my view, I would much rather take a chance on an independent who has a bit of a following."

Nokomis Block Party, 2013

In another effort to give back to the community, Neil Oxendale partnered up five years ago with the pastor of a local church, to revive the old Nokomis Days tradition, by hosting the Nokomis Block Party; a neighborhood celebration of community, music, food and fun held on the first Sunday after Labor Day.  The sounds of local musicians and the aroma of cooking from the food trucks fill the air, as local artists, and artisans display their crafts and products for all to see.  In an effort to help his producers gain more exposure, Neil invites local vendors with products in the store to set up a booth, and sell their goods during the event at no charge.  Proceeds from the event gained from their annual corn roast, and other activities, support the Lake Nokomis Community fund, which in turn helps local schools and the local PTA.

This giving back mindset has really paid off as more and more people are shopping at Oxendale's, looking specifically for local and organic products that are available right in the neighborhood.  Through word of mouth, the word is spreading to folks not only in South Minneapolis, but to the Twin Cities Metro as well.  Pretty good for a guy who was stocking shelves as a fifteen year old.

"Local boy makes good" sums it up quite nicely!

Ray, Adam, and Neil Oxendale

Oxendale's Market is located at:
5025 S 34th Ave, in South Minneapolis.  
Their phone number is (612) 724-4474.  

You can also find them on their website at and on Facebook.
More information about the Nokomis Block Party can be found here.



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Prior Lake Farmers Market. Good vibes abound!

During the long cold winter, Terry and I had the privilege of being vendors at the Prior Lake Winter Market.  This new endeavor provided local residents with an opportunity to experience the summer Farmers Market feel on a smaller, more intimate scale.  Winter Goddess Foods was so well received by the community and the vendors that we were invited to be a part of this year's summer market as well.  While this is a major undertaking for our small company, forcing us to divide our resources, the positive energy and good vibes exhibited by the community make it well worth it.  So as of next weekend, Winter Goddess Foods will be featured at two farmers markets!

Allow me to bring you a little insight on this flourishing, and vital market.

It began 13 years ago with a woman with a vision. Her dream was to have a market with a primary focus on vendors who not only offer organic and high quality products, but have care and concern about what they bring to the marketplace.  Karla Haugen, a veteran vendor of farmers markets and indoor shows all around the Twin Cities Metro made a fateful decision, "We need this in Prior Lake."

With that vision, the Prior Lake Farmers Market was born.

She began by seeking out and recruiting 12 of the best vendors she had worked with in the past.  She was able to procure a small place to hold the market; the parking lot of the old Brewberry Coffee Shop. She and the other vendors set up shop and waited for the traffic to begin.  She never dreamed that the response from the residence would be so high that the local police had to come to the site and direct traffic.

After the initial success, she took a grassroots approach to grow this new market, even recruiting her own children to pass out fliers and go door to door to let everyone know that Prior Lake now had a new market to call their own.  As interest grew, Karla continued to add more and more vendors who were of like mind.  People who bring a good feeling and a positive exchange of energy.

"This is not about people focusing on making money," says Karla.  "This is about community coming together."

And indeed the Prior Lake community has come together in support of this wonderful market.  Now in its 13th year, the Prior Lake Farmers Market has become the place to be, not only for the locals, but for folks all over the Twin Cities as well.  Through Karla's drive, persistence and hard work, the market has become part of the local Chamber of Commerce, and enjoys the support of local business, including the Downtown Business Association.  Responding to the request of local members of the community, the market has added more producers of fresh produce into its lineup of vendors, as well as new vendors with unique product offerings. But make no mistake, the market in not interested in becoming over large for the sake of growth, but rather, it strives to give residents the best that can be offered.

"I'm more interested in quality than quantity," Karla pointed out.  "And great positive energy."

In addition to fresh plants, flowers, food and product merchants, the Prior Lake Farmers Market also features visiting artists from many disciplines displaying everything from pottery and iron work to woven crafts and literary authors.  The strains of a variety of music will fill the air as musicians weave their magic to catch the ears of market attendees.  A welcoming atmosphere will again fill Main Street as neighbors and strangers come together to enjoy this signal of the return of Spring.

A unique aspect of this market, is what's called the "Market Basket," where donations of products and money are collected from vendors and shoppers, and delivered to residents of the community in times of need.  The market has sponsored families who have suffered a job loss, folks who are struggling with a debilitating disease, residents who are hospitalized, or those going through the trauma of the death of a loved one.  This care and concern for others is readily evident in the attitude of market participants.

Karla reflects, "Our Farmers market is really in line with how I want the world to be.  A place where good, healthy food is readily available, and where people come together and treat each other right."

How can anyone say no to that?

This year, the market has started an email list, where subscribers can get information on market happenings, as well as take advantage of vendor specials offered to insiders only.  Sign up information can be found on their website.

The market begins this Saturday, May 10th and runs through October.  The hours are from 8 am to noon each Saturday, and it is located in downtown Prior Lake on Main Street, just off Highway 13 and County Road 21.  If you're searching for a great place to hang out and shop, I highly recommend that you come on down, grab a cup of coffee or chai, and enjoy this great feel-good market.