Friday, September 25, 2009

Broccoli—The Bi-Partisan Vegetable

OK. The bi-partisan tag might be stretching it a little, but this seems to be an era of extreme partisanship, so, stay with me here, this is kind of fun. Like many things in life, we love it, we hate it, we tolerate it, we ignore it. Yes, we even shun it and speak ill of it. But, no matter how you feel about it—that doesn’t change the fact that it’s good for you. You can eat it raw, with dip, stir-fried, steamed, roasted, in a frittata, in a casserole, in soup, hot or cold. There’s something here for everyone. And, no matter how you eat it, here’s what broccoli offers:

  • It packs the most nutritional punch of any vegetable.
  • It encourages production of enzymes which protect blood vessels.
  • These same enzymes reduce high levels of molecules which cause cell damage.
  • Broccoli helps the body produce the protein, thioredoxin, which protects against cell damage in the heart.
  • It contains sulforaphane, a compound found to be effective in triggering this protection process and increases the activity of a group of enzymes in our bodies that squelch cancer-causing agents.
  • Broccoli is a high fiber vegetable. Half of its fiber is insoluble and half is soluble, helping to meet our needs for both types of fiber
  • Broccoli provides a high amount of vitamin C, which aids iron absorption in the body, prevents the development of cataracts, and also eases the symptoms of the common cold.
  • The potassium in broccoli aids those battling high blood pressure, while its large amount of calcium helps combat osteoporosis.
  • The substances responsible for the green and purple colors of broccoli, vitamin C, beta-carotene and other vitamins and minerals, particularly selenium, copper, zinc and phosphorus, are great immune-strengtheners.
  • Due to its high fiber content and low sugar, broccoli helps fight the war on diabetes. The fiber helps keep blood sugar low and as a result insulin can be kept to a minimum.

What’s not to love?

So, to recap, on the one hand we have a vegetable that really is good for us—and has proven protective health benefits. It’s relatively inexpensive as vegetables go, and as long as it’s not overcooked (lightly steamed or raw is best), it truly “reaches across the table.”

It’s not an exciting or glamorous food—but it’s a great food choice. Working more of these “good” choices into our diets will go far in our quest to live healthier lives, and ensure our children live healthier and longer lives.

I’m not saying broccoli is the answer to health care reform, but I am saying it’s something we can all embrace for the health benefits. Whatever our political differences, broccoli is beyond doubt, a bi-partisan vegetable. Like it or not, I think we can all agree on that. So, bring on broccoli reform.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oil and Water Don’t Mix

Tap water or bottled water? Is there a difference? Well, bottled water is convenient, easy to carry around and shows you are a health-conscious person. You also have to pay for it, and the trendy plastic container. Depending on how much water you drink, it can run you several hundred dollars a year—or more. On the other hand, you have tap water. Tap water is kind of boring, and you have to use a glass to drink it, then you have to wash the glass. It’s also free and has passed strict national, state and local quality guidelines.

If you choose Coca-Cola’s Dasani or Pepsi’s Aquafina water you get tap water with minerals added in—water from the bottling plant’s municipal water source. So, other than the cost and the fact that you’re really drinking tap water with a fancy name is there a downside to drinking bottled water? Actually—maybe.

The well-known environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) tested 1,000 bottles of water over a 4-year period. They found that 22 percent of the brands tested contained, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above state health limits.

And then there’s the water / oil connection.

Most plastic water bottles are made with polyethylene terepthalate (PET). To make PET, you need oil. About 17 million barrels of oil a year are used to make those disposable water bottles. And, research from the Container Recycling Institute shows that about 86 percent of the 30 billion PET water bottles sold every year end up in the trash, taking somewhere between 400 and 1,000 years to degrade.

So back to the original question—it seems as if there are actually some big differences between drinking bottled and tap water—other than the fact that a lot of the water itself is pretty much the same. My take: I’m happy washing the glass.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All That Sugar . . . All Those Soft Drinks . . . All That Money!

In a Blog Post (To Tax or Not to Tax—That’s a Big Question) dated June 1, 2009, we started with the following statement and questions:

Liquids make up about 22 percent of our daily calories. A study published in “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association,” found those who drank just one soft drink a day—diet or regular—showed increased risk factors for heart disease. Here’s more: Women who drink two or more cans of diet or regular soda a day are nearly twice as likely to show signs of early kidney disease. And, any soda may increase your risk of metabolic syndrome. People who consumed just one diet soda daily had a 34 percent higher risk.

A 12-ounce can of sweetened soda contains 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar. Is this tax-worthy? It’s a question we may be looking at. Here’s a question to go with it—Do we impose a “sin” tax on regular soda but not diet soda? And, if we’re in essence taxing sugar—what about candy, gum, ice cream, candy bars, pies, cake? (You get the picture.)

Now, here’s what’s new and eye-popping. Let’s look only at sugar-sweetened beverages—the numbers only grow from there. The Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has gone further than asking thoughtful questions. The Center has developed a “Revenue Calculator” for soft drink tax revenue. The figures are truly amazing. Just a 1 cent tax per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages (regular soft drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, fruit beverages, energy drinks, ready-to-drink coffee and ready-to-drink nondiet tea) in 2010 could result in tax revenues of $14,887,530,097 on the 11,630,882,889 gallons of the sweet stuff we drink. In one year.

Here in Texas alone, those figures translate to $1,187,823,885 on the 927,987,410 sugar- sweetened gallons of beverage we Texans consume. It’s pretty obvious that taxes on sugar-laden beverages can result in a great deal of revenue for cities, states and the nation.

Suddenly those Big Gulps really do have value. One more question—what do we do with it?

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Job Well Done

When Labor Day rolls around, most of our thoughts turn to the really important matters at hand: Where did the summer go? Will Monday's barbecue be the last till next June? Long gone are thoughts about the true meaning of this day to honor the nation's workers. Labor Day, being the first Monday in September, makes for a pretty good holiday. Before the “real” holiday season begins, it’s a nice break, generally observed with parades, speeches, barbecues, and picnics. It has also become the unofficial end of summer. In essence, while we have a holiday in honor of “the worker,” we celebrate Labor Day by not laboring.

It was just last Labor Day that we were looking at a grim economic picture. Just two weeks later, on September 15, financial giant Lehman Brothers went under, and it's still the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Two weeks later, it was followed by lender Washington Mutual. That was not the end. Much has happened since the last Labor Day to Labor Day 2009. And much has happened since the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882.

If you're like most people, you spend at least one-third of your life at work. This Labor Day, with the nation's eyes upon its workers, it's a good time for both employers and employees to evaluate what you do with that one-third of your life. Is your work personally satisfying? Do you take pride in what you do? Do you have a support network at work? Do you feel you are a valued employee (and if you’re the employer, do you demonstrate that you do indeed value your employees)? Do they know it?

Given the current economic conditions, debate over health care reform, job loss and job uncertainty, (this is where we tie this post into LoneStart Wellness) now would be a very opportune time for each of us to do everything in our power to ensure our individual and organizational long-term health and wellness. After all, we know healthy and well employees are happier, have more energy, give more to the job—and get more from the job. That investment in wellness is indeed a job well done, and a fitting way to mark Labor Day, 2009.