The health benefits of a plant-based diet

In 2017, I switched to a vegetarian diet…I admit I tried full vegan but found the occasional eggs and real cheese to be hard to give up.  I’ll work my way towards 100% plant-based eventually…especially as I keep reading about the various health benefits of such a diet!  If you’re curious, check out this link at Forks Over Knives, it’s a great, brief summary of the health reasons for choosing a plant-based diet.  It’s really pretty crazy when so many ailments in our lives can be addressed with a simple change in diet…and yes, giving up meat really *is* simple!  Well except for eggs and cheese. 😉  But if those can at least be minimized, your health will still benefit!

Ice cream sandwiches don’t melt?

Gross  TheDenverChannel.com reports on a discovery a local mom stumbled upon.  Walmart-brand ice cream sandwiches don’t melt, or rather, they look pretty much solid even after being left out overnight.  I bet you can guess why!  Yep, it’s not what most people think of as ice cream.  To reduce cost, they’ve substituted cord syrup, guar gum, and cellulose gum for the milk-based products we’d normally expect.  Yuck.

Read more here: Why don’t ice cream sandwiches melt anymore? – 7NEWS Denver TheDenverChannel.com.

Beef: the most environmentally harmful animal product

PNAS-beef-animal-productsBad news for beef lovers.  Another study has shown that the most environmentally harmful animal in the American diet is beef.  Compared to pork, poultry, or eggs in a per-calorie comparison, beef  was worse in every measure – water, land, fertilizer.  It’s useful information for those who are considering cutting meat from their diet for environmental reasons…a huge first step would be to just minimize how much beef and dairy you consume.  There’s no way I’m cutting beef out of my diet entirely…I’m too much of a steak lover for that!  Including more poultry and pork looks like a good move though.

Read more at TreeHugger: Scientists identify the most environmentally harmful animal product in the American diet : TreeHugger.

Would you eat synthetic meat?

test_tube_burgerAs you probably heard already, researchers in Europe have managed to grow meat in laboratory conditions, starting out with cow stem cells.  They even went a step further and cooked and ate the meat, reporting ho-hum results – the lack of fat was an issue.  As my grandfather used to say, “The fat is where the flavor is.”  Indeed.  So flavor aside, it proved to be a pretty decent substitute, reportedly.  The potential here is huge…meat production is widely criticized as not only inhumane, but a significant contributor of greenhouse gas.  As the population grows, demand for food will grow with it, so this has the potential to greatly help offset that demand.

What I found really interesting though was a question on FastCompany – Would vegans and vegetarians eat synthetic meat?  It’s an interesting conundrum (YES!  I’ve been wanting to use that word in a post for a while now).  There’s also the aspect of food safety…with concerns like Mad Cow Disease, growth hormones, pink slime, etc, the idea of a tightly controlled lab environment for your food supply has its appeal.

Others are working on the synthetic meat problem too, and with backers such as Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, and Peter Thiel throwing their support at these projects, I think it’s only a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’, you’ll be ordering a test tube burger at McDonald’s within the next decade.

Study finds 84% of all fish have unsafe levels of mercury

fish-2961289136516LOiThis is one of those stories I find almost too scary to be true…yet I don’t see reason to doubt it.  A study by the Biodiversity Research Institute (link) found that 84% of fish have levels of mercury that are unsafe, posing a health risk to humans.  So on the one hand, we’re told to eat more fish, it’s good for you…yeah well except for the mercury part of it. 🙁  Relative to other countries, fish in the US tested better, with a bit more than 40% of samples above the recommend mercury levels.  Most other countries ranked higher, in the 90+% range.  Swordfish and tuna rank as the worst (highest mercury concentrations).

(via CBS News)

Food safety in China

IkeaChina has a well-earned reputation for careless disregard for the safety of their food supply (follow this link for the ‘top 10 food scandals‘, for example).  Now with horsemeat concerns in the European food supply, and most recently Ikea meatballs, Ikea wanted to reassure the Chinese that the meatballs served in China are actually made in China, and are not tied to the horsemeat scandal in Europe.  Well, it kinda backfired, as it seems even the Chinese are losing faith in their food supply…and would rather have potentially horsemeat-laden meatballs from Europe than domestically produced meatballs.  As one person was quoted as saying, “I don’t really care about horse meat. The key point is that if it’s produced in China, it probably has rat meat.”  Hard to argue with that, based on recent history.

Could be worse though…when testing for horse DNA in meat pies produced in Iceland, they found the meat pies actually contained no meat.  Lol.

Then another food surprise in China…in an effort to maximize profits, some vendors are selling walnuts filled with concrete.

Burger-making machine

Watch out, burger flippers of the world…Momentum Machines is looking to put you out of work with their new hamburger-making machine.  It slices the toppings on demand, offers custom meat grinds (mixing multiple meats, for example), and can produce around six burgers per minute.  This photo here is of an actual burger produced by the machine, and you know what?  It looks like the promotional pictures restaurants use for their burgers…you know, the pictures that look NOTHING LIKE the actual burger they serve you.  After the horrible experience I had at McDonald’s over the weekend (see the picture below)…I think this is the coolest machine ever made.  Read more about it over at Gizmag.

This was half of the Angus burger McDonald’s served me over the weekend. Sloppy construction. Giant glob of mayo (not shown). A couple slices of onions (when I has specifically asked for NO ONIONS).  If this is the best humans can do, I’d rather have a machine-made burger!

Review: Earthbox self-watering planter

Read the marketing literature, and the EarthBox sounds like a revolutionary approach to growing plants.  I was skeptical.  The truth is, it’s a self-watering planter with a very nice amount of attention to detail.  For example, they provide the right amount of fertilizer to use.  A plastic cover to reduce evaporation.  A nice fill tube and overflow hole.  Little stuff like that, but you know what?

It adds up to something great.

I’ve owned two of these.  The first, while I was living in California, produced a tomato plant over six feet high.  The second, in Colorado, has done a fantastic job of growing peas, beans, and cucumbers in a water-scarce climate.  I love it and can always count on the EarthBox to take care of the plants, giving them the right amount of fertilizer and water while I sit back and do nothing.  It’s available for about $50 at Amazon, in both organic and non-organic versions.  It’s large and heavy once you fill it with dirt and water, but still fits in nicely on a deck or patio, where hopefully you can keep the local wildlife away from it.

Which brings me to the one drawback…animals.  A raised bed is easily covered with deer netting to protect your crops, but this standalone planter doesn’t lend itself nearly as well to that.  That six foot tomato plant I mentioned?  It produced countless tomatoes.  I ate ONE, just one measly tomatoe from that whole plant.  The rest were enjoyed by squirrels, who were rude enough to eat the tomatoes before they were ripe enough for us to harvest for human consumption.  So, when planning a garden, be sure to look around your backyard…the EarthBox will help your plants grow fantastically well, but who’s going to enjoy the fruits of that?

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