Saturday, March 16, 2013

All Smoothie'd Out

Hello Friends!
Most people who are familiar with Instagram, the popular Iphone app, would probably agree it is a great way to feel connected with celebrities who post pictures of their personal lives. For instance, I follow Jef Holm’s posts. He was the winner of the ABC hit show, The Bachelorette. His latest post was a photo of 7 bottles of Suja juice. Jef explains in the caption that after trying a 3 day juice cleanse, he is eager to continue with another 5 day Suja juice cleanse.  Many of his followers commented that they were also ready to give Suja juice a try (it’s obtainable at Whole Foods, when it’s not out of stock). Eric Ethans and Annie Lawless, passionate creators of Suja juice, claim that this juice is cold-pressed and packed full of nutrients. To dispel juicing myths, they assert that “a juice cleanse is not a quick fix for weeks or months of poor eating” and “it is a way to help your body detox and reset” ( It is interesting how celebrities can strongly impact everyone’s choices, especially through their endorsements. Will I try Suja now that Jef has influenced me as well as so many other fans?
Film is another medium through which society can share their opinions about health. I watched the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead recently. The documentary is about an Australian, Joe Cross, who realizes that his obesity is causing physical, mental, social, and emotional stresses on his well-being. Essentially, he was on his way to involuntarily committing suicide by food. However, Joe was able to change his lifestyle. He went on a juice fast for 60 days, eating only juice smoothies made of vegetables and fruits for every meal. He lost 80 pounds and kept it off, inspiring others. Joe claims to feel better and think clearer than when he was heavy. He has also learned a lot about nutrition. Most importantly, Joe is taking lower doses of his medication, Prednisone. He has improved his health and no longer gets sores and does not suffer severely from the autoimmune disease, urticaria. This story of triumph is a warning to others, as well as motivation. It clearly illustrates the dangers of obesity, and a lot of other people like Joe make themselves ill. Now, whether I am sick from poor eating habits or for some other reason, what we have in common is that I would also like to improve my health. Juice fasts appear intimidating and I’m hesitant to try it because I know I will get hungry, but that sort of challenge will build my willpower and smart habits. After all, I’ve got to start somewhere.
Interestingly, Joe Cross’s latest tweets include the link to an article in the online magazine publication Well+Good NYC. The piece evaluates the controversy of using the new process of High Pressure Processing (HPP) that extends the shelf life of juice products. This technology is seen as a kind of “selling out” to some. This is exactly the method that Suja Juice employs. But others believe in HPP because it makes few changes to nutrient quality and allows products to be sold in chains such as Whole Foods (WellandGood). In the end, there will always be a new company bringing raw products to consumers in a neat and enticing package with or without provocative technology, ready for the masses.
It appears as if more students than I thought are getting an opportunity to try the juice trend. When I was walking through the campus cafeteria, a flyer posted on the board caught my eye (see picture). It was advertising a Shamanic Juice Fast for three days, described as “A Gateway to the Journey of Transformation”. I actually saw this before I had watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, so it did not have the same implications because juicing seemed like just another fad diet. This promotional poster emphasized the benefits of a juice fast including “cleanse, purify, detoxify” and “explore and heal your relationship to food and hunger”. Divine Service Center of San Jose hosts the program and listed different pricing options (it was cheaper for members of Modern Shamanism) and meeting dates. This advertisement seems to have genuine interests in promoting a healthy juice fast, but marketing to college students is indicative of the self-serving undercurrent. Bill Duran, self proclaimed Master Guide of Modern Shamanism, runs the Shamanic Juice Fast tour across the U.S. His company, like others struggling to survive in this economy, needs to make money. Whether he truly believe in juice fasts or not, college students such as myself are desperate to be healthy and thus easy targets. Young adults already often have self-esteem and body issues due to the pressures of society about how women should look and dress or the expected athletic abilities of a “real man”, all of which are enforced by stereotypes. Thus, students are eager to try crazy diets and take risks.
I was further delighted to see another advertisement for the university’s Wellness Center Program right next to the juice fast ad. The ad encouraged students to join the Health and Wellness Group run by the Cowell Health Center. Fortunately, Santa Clara offers many resources for students looking to improve their health. For example, I could join Peer Health Educators and be able to teach and educate other students on wellbeing. In outdoorsy Northern California, health and fitness is a priority for many. If I am not on top of my game in the health department, someone else will be a constant reminder that I need to improve my ways when they jog by in bright athletic gear or enthusiastically mention that their simple juice fast is absolutely “replenishing”. Everyone seems to have some sort of opinion about the right foods. Whether the source is an experienced field expert such as Gillian McKeith, an inspirational story like Joe Cross’s transformation, an entrepreneur like Bill Duran, or a generic health center, they will all share their knowledge without hesitation. Some of those sources truly care about its clients, but some have hidden motivations. I will be cautious of which information I accept. The most important thing is that I make my own decisions because I am taking control of my own body.
I enjoy hearing about other people’s inspiring transformations. As I walked to a Santa Clara student event across campus last week, a friend of a friend started sharing his recent experience along the way. He had been on a juice cleanse for 5 days so far, and he indicated that he felt decent from the detox. Juice cleansing seems to be pretty ubiquitous for the crowd of young people. Odwalla is the most prominent maker of superfood smoothies available at all grocery stores. Their green-friendly packaging and marketing style draws customers to its peculiar taste. My photo shows the multitude of super-smoothies of different brands available in the Safeway across the street: Odwalla, Evolution Fresh (Starbucks), Naked, Bolthouse Farms, Kevita, Pom, Zola, Zico, and GTS Kombacha to name a few. In a few of these bottles in the refrigerated section, I noticed cloudy bits swirling around in the bottom of the smoothies. The bottles were labeled with a warning that live cultures might cause pulp to condense in the bottle. This disgusted me, but I guess others can deal with it. Anyway, I purchased an Odwalla superfood smoothie (there are many flavors available) from Benson cafeteria. Supposedly, there is half a peach, two strawberries, one-tenth of a banana, one-fifth of a mango, spirulina, and apple juice in this concoction. Ever since 5th grade when I had a bad experience with Jamba Juice smoothies (stomach flu memories really stay with you), I have avoided all juice purees. My best friend worked at Emerald City Smoothies last summer, so she was frustrated when I never came to visit her at work and try her samples. Even so, Odwalla smoothies are made more from vegetables than fruits, so that does not help me get over my aversion (who likes carrot beet ginger anyways?). Yet, I attempted to drink all of the Odwalla juice. However, over the course of a day, I could not force myself to drink any more, but I finished more than half of it. It did not taste as bad as I thought it would, but the consistency was not appealing to me. I did not feel energized or full because I simply did not enjoy the Odwalla juice. Is there any hope for a juice cleanse for me? I don’t think so. I will have to search for some other outlet to continue my health craze. I’d love some advice from you all about how to enjoy the ever-popular smoothie.
Works Cited
"Still Fresh? A Shelf-life-extending Technology Creates a Rift in the Juice World."Well+Good NYC. Well+Good LLC, 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 08 Mar. 2013
"Suja's Organic Juices Will Keep You Balanced and Hydrated to Thrive." Suja Juice. Suja Juice, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

Superfood or Super-Faux?

Hello Friends,
The experience present in everyone’s lives is the choice between Big Food and Smart Food products. Big Food is deemed the conglomerates that produce cheap processed non-nutritious items for bulk consumption with profit in mind. On the other hand, Smart Food is considered to be the class of superfoods that boost immunity and protect the body’s condition. Most people either avoid food regimens and eat carelessly or choose the wrong type of diet. With a bit of scrutiny and research, I have managed to find out which foods are healthiest for my body. Now, I am aware. It is another big step to actually eat Smart Food. It is important to me that I put in the effort to receive my body’s maximum potential; it is all give and take in the mind and body relationship. After reading material from Dr. Gillian McKeith, as I discussed in the previous blog post, I understand that not everything I read is credible. With a surplus of information that may or may not be accurate, it is challenging to make the correct choice. In fact, I have a confession.
It’s true, I was doing well on my path to healthiness, and then I went to the Cellar market; I should really stay out of there because it’s encouraging bad habits. Browsing through the frozen section, I recognized my favorite brand of “healthy” frozen chicken, Quorn. At home, I might have ventured to declare my favorite meal was Quorn cranberry goat-cheese chicken nuggets. Even reminiscing of the hot chicken slab oozing with melted goat cheese and dipped in sauce makes my mouth water. After my childhood, anything served with ketchup is tasty to me. Honestly, before this week I had no idea this wasn’t real meat. In the Cellar, I was pulled by the nuggets’ mysterious magical food powers toward it in the back of the store. As soon as I laid eyes on the packaging, it seemed to be emanating a halo (or perhaps that was just the glow from the freezer lights). The inspection of the box revealed that the Quorn brand creates “meatless and soy free” products. Hmm, I was not aware that Quorn was a vegetarian brand for meat substitutes. No wonder they label it “Chik’n”. I guess common sense is not so evident to me when my mother was the one buying my groceries. She bought and I ate: oops. Anyway, the brand website draws viewers by marketing to the food-lover, weight watcher, healthy eater, vegetarian, and environmentalist. On the page that describes why Quorn is a suitable brand, the company starts the explanation with “Super food…or Superfood?” and ends the speech with, “No wonder some people are calling Quorn ‘a wonder food’!” (Quorn). The brand tells the audience that in addition to being yummy food, it is also in the nutritious “superfood” class as well. So Quorn creates nutritious food products for vegetarians, right? But I thought I was supposed to avoid all frozen meals because they are exactly that, “products” manufactured unnaturally. What is in the Quorn Chik’n nuggets that I bought? According to the package, the meat alternative is made mostly of mycoprotein, a “naturally occurring” form of protein that is “produced using a fermentation process”. Isn’t chemical conversion unnatural? The process is changing the chemical structure of food molecules, similar to food products with GMOs. In 2009, Kristen Seymour, a passionate fitness blogger for “ThatsFit” health section from HuffPost Healthy Living, wrote about how Quorn was facing a class action lawsuit (Seymour). Studies showed that subjects who ate Quorn products faced adverse reactions 10% of the time, compared to 5% for everyday reactions to fish and common food allergies. The significant issue was mislabeling because the package does not indicate any warning for allergic reactions. Since mycoprotein is similar to a fungus, the food was making people violently sick. If the meat substitute is a superfood, then in theory it should be making people feel better, not worse.  To address the issue, Quorn admits, “Unfortunately, all protein foods can cause illness in some people”. Seymour also reports that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has launched, and there are thousands of responses. If a company is involved with any sort of lawsuit or recall, I start to question the credibility of their product. Idealistically, I would not want to support this food that could do harm to my own health. Realistically, the power of hunger is stronger than my convictions about the food system. That is the real problem, applicable to almost everyone, in today’s society. There is no other recent information available online about the result of the lawsuit, and it is unlikely Quorn altered its product for the better. Perhaps Quorn misleadingly used an appearance makeover to quiet its critics by changing the packaging and marketing. Indeed, the Quorn controversy is a recipe for consumer frustration.
To return to the meal, I proceeded to make a snack. This was my first time trying the chicken nuggets. I heated 5 pieces in the microwave on paper towels, per the directions (see picture of box), for a couple minutes. After letting them cool, I noticed heavy grease stains soaking through the thick layers of paper towels. That was a bit disconcerting, but I was hungry and they looked so delicious (I’m working on my willpower). I didn’t have a clean plate handy, so I just squeezed a drop of ketchup on each nugget and ate it. They were decent, but they didn’t taste fresh. The nuggets did not taste how I expected them to. They were chewier and oily. I was not biased because it was before I had researched mycoprotein. I was expecting them to taste like McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets. I distinctly remember the taste of those because the fast food version felt soaked in sodium and injected with the x factor of processed food chemicals, the one that makes you crave more of it yet it never satisfies the taste. This is why I was longing for salty nuggets laden with that inexplicable flavor, reminding me of childhood car rides filled with fast food. A few months ago, my weekly social dorm activity was a Thanksgiving meal. The staff provided the food, including mashed potatoes, corn, and what I was delighted to see most of all, chicken nuggets. I blame the staff for reminding me of what I was missing out on. If I hadn’t eaten it then, I would not have remembered the processed yet addicting taste.  All right, it’s my own fault for lack of self-discipline. Perhaps, this act of eating Quorn chicken nuggets (identified as a superfood) is truly a success worthy of sharing; I certainly avoided eating meat and did increase my intake of cultivated protein. But I’m thinking it is more of a confession to ignorance.
As the season of Lent proceeds, it is fitting that I gave up meat for this meal, albeit unknowingly. However, I prefer to return to my omnivorous diet. I’ve been eating blueberries every day. They are my favorite superfood since I love fruit. “Berries are among the fruits highest in antioxidant content,” reports the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). The AICR established a Foods That Fight Cancer bulletin, claiming that as well as having vitamins C and K and manganese, blueberries possess phytochemicals that block cancer development. Antioxidants “attract and neutralize highly reactive molecules called free radicals that could otherwise damage body cells in ways that initiate cancer development,” writes Karen Collins, nutrition advisor to AICR, in her article for NBC News (Collins). Mixing berries with dark colored vegetables creates a nourishing smoothie, but I’ve yet to try any green smoothie. I was sick for exactly 6 days, and my cold ceased right before Parents Weekend. My mom and dad visited and took me out to dinner to enjoy a nice meal at a Vietnamese and Thai food restaurants. Although I am not feeling ill now and my health level is at a 9 (the best it has been in a while), I still continue to be mildly congested. I’m not sure if this will ever go away because there is always someone sick on campus, so I’m likely to always be in contact with other people’s germs.
In the end, the Quorn brand is an international corporation feeding the masses, a contributor to Big Food. Is a product made by a Big Food company still a credible superfood if it has beneficial properties? That is up to you to decide. In my opinion, Big Food can never manufacture Smart Food because artificial food products cannot be considered the highest tier of nutritious superfoods, which must be 100% natural. Oh, and as I write this, #health is a trending topic on twitter. If you don’t know what that means, it means a lot of people online across the world are talking about the nation’s health. Maybe the world is realizing the severity of the issue. Get online, comment on twitter or my blog, and tell me what your opinions are about #health.

Works Cited
"American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR): AICR's Foods That Fight Cancer." AICR's Foods That Fight Cancer. American Institute for Cancer Research, 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.
Collins, Karen. "Berries: Cancer-fighting Super Foods?" NBC News Diet and Nutrition. NBC News, 8 Sept. 2006. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.
Seymour, Kristen. "Quorn Meat Substitute Faces Lawsuit." That's Fit. HuffPost Healthy Living, 18 Sept. 2009. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.
"Quorn Products." Quorn Website. Marlow Foods Ltd, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Hey, I found this article from MindBodyGreen (Julie Morris's website, author of Superfood Smoothies) titled 5 Simple Steps to Boost Your Immune System. I thought it was interesting. It's another way to prevent the common cold