Monthly Archives: February 2016

Safe seafood choices.



Seafood safety is an important issue for those of you who eat fish & shellfish. Due to an increase in toxic pollution of the oceans, climate change, over fishing both salt & fresh water sources, concerns over farmed & GMO fish, it is difficult to know what to choose for your meal. I have put together a few sources that can help you make a choice based on safety & sustainability.

Nutritionally, seafood is a very healthy choice for your protein source. I found this overview to be very informative. You can download the information here: Seafood Nutrition Overview:  “Seafood is a high-protein food that is low in calories, total fat, and saturated fat. High in vitamins and minerals, seafood has been shown to have numerous health benefits. For example, recent studies have shown that eating seafood can decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and hypertension. Seafood also provides essential nutrients for developing infants and children.

Calories and Protein: Seafood is generally considered to be a low-calorie protein source. Most low-fat species of fish, such as cod, flounder and sole, contain less than 100 calories per 3-ounce cooked portion, and even fattier fish like mackerel, herring, and salmon have about 200 calories per serving. Seafood is a complete protein source. It contains enough of the essential amino acids to assure healthy growth and optimal fetal development. A 3-ounce serving of most fish and shellfish provides about about 30-40% of the average daily recommended amount of protein. The protein in seafood is easier to digest because seafood has less connective tissue than red meats and poultry.

Fat and Cholesterol: Seafood is generally considered to be low in total fat and saturated fat. Most fish and shellfish contain less than 5 percent total fat, and even the fattiest fish, such as mackerel and king salmon, have no more than 15 percent fat. A large proportion of the fat in seafood is polyunsaturated, including omega-3 fatty acids, which have added health benefits.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are required for healthy human development. These organic compounds cannot be produced by the human body and therefore need to be obtained through food. Scientific evidence suggests that the marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can help reduce the risk of heart disease and contribute to brain and vision development in infants. Fish and shellfish are the main dietary sources of EPA and DHA. The plant-derived omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is a precursor to EPA and DHA and is only converted at rates of about 0.1-9% in the human body. The American Heart Association recommends 1000 milligrams (mg) of EPA/DHA per day for patients with coronary heart disease, and two meals of oily fish per week for patients without heart disease. Fish with medium to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids include oily ocean fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines (see Description of Omega-3’s and Their Role in Human Health).

Cholesterol is present at varying amounts in most animal foods. Current dietary recommendations suggest limiting cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day. Almost all fish and shellfish contain well under 100 mg of cholesterol per 3-ounce cooked serving, and many of the leaner types of fish have less than 60 mg.

Vitamins and Minerals: Fish is a natural source of B-complex vitamins, vitamin D and vitamin A (especially oily fish). B-complex vitamins have been associated with healthy development of the nervous system. Vitamin A is needed for healthy vision as well as for healthy skin, while vitamin D is essential in bone development.

Fish is also a good source of minerals such as selenium, zinc, iodine and iron. Selenium is a potent antioxidant that protects against cell damage and may help to counter the negative effects of mercury. Zinc is needed for cell growth and immune system health. Iodine helps maintain thyroid gland function, while iron is important in red blood cell production. Small fish eaten whole, such as sardines and anchovies, are an important source of calcium needed for bone development.”

To keep up with seafood news affecting you as a consumer: Seafood Industry News – Food Safety & Health This page covers what the FDA is doing with specific labels/companies that are not up to their standards. It is a good resource for those of you interested in following seafood safety & which companies are being watched.

On the same website there is a Seafood Handbook that lists over 100 different fish & seafood. If you click on the name of a fish, for example anchovy, it lists the following information about that fish:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides up to date information about which fish & shellfish are safe to buy. Their website is: Seafood WatchThe Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that protect sea life and habitats, now and for future generations. Our recommendations indicate which seafood items are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which ones you should “Avoid.”

We raise public awareness about sustainable seafood issues through our consumer guides, website, mobile apps and outreach efforts. Since 1999, we’ve distributed over 56 million consumer guides and our smartphone app has been downloaded over 1.5 million times. We also encourage restaurants, distributors and seafood purveyors to purchase from sustainable sources. We have over 200 partners across North America, including two of the largest food service companies in the U.S.

The Seafood Watch Mobile App for Apple & Android. Most people have their phone with them while shopping. This is a great app to have.

To download the printable, portable, 2016 Seafood Watch guide for California, click HERE  You can also click on the guide below to get a bigger picture that you can also download & print.

MBA-SeafoodWatch-West-Coast-Guide 2016

Check out their International Resources on Fish. When you click on a country, watch for a popup window asking if you want it translated. I had to do that with Japan. Interesting information.

Another good resource is the EWG’s Consumer Guide to Seafood“EWG believes Americans must consider the impact of their dietary choices on the ocean and freshwater ecosystems. One key step is to assess which segments of the population most benefit from seafood consumption and give them clear information about species and quantities that best provide health benefits.” I think the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s guides are more comprehensive, up to date & user friendly. 

GMO fish? In the news they are called “frankenfish”. Apt name. Good article: Here are the retailers who won’t sell AquaBounty’s GM salmon “A New York Times readership poll found that 75 percent of respondents would not eat salmon that had been genetically engineered. According to Friends of the Earth, over 60 grocery store chains operating 9,000 storefronts across the United States have already made vows to not sell GMO or genetically modified products. Safeway, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Aldi are all among those retailers refusing GMO items.” This is your choice. Enough said 🙂

Now you know which fish & shellfish to choose for dinner. Here are a few links to recipes so you can follow through with your healthy diet.

  • Sea Food Watch Sustainable Recipes Even though I am a vegetarian, these recipes look good. I may try a few with seitan or tempeh in place of the fish 🙂 
  • Bon Appetit: 21 Simple, Healthy Fish Recipes for Crazy-Busy Weeknights
  • Prevention: No-Fail Fish Dishes  Fish is the ultimate supper superstar. It’s healthy, quick to cook, and can be used fresh or frozen. Still, it’s easy to get discouraged by which kind of fish to buy, a potentially high price tag, or how to prepare it. We make it easy. These 10 recipes give simple step-by-step instructions and tell you which types of fish can be swapped in its place—just in case you prefer a certain type or find a lower cost alternative at the market.”
  • Cooking Light: Super Fast Fish Recipes  “Twenty-minute recipes from under the sea.”

Don’t forget to use your Fish Watch app or to bring along the portable guide next time you are at the market. Bon appetit!………Mary

Are you counting sheep at night?



If you are having trouble sleeping and lie there counting sheep, you are in good company. According to a study done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, CDC, 1 in 3 Americans are getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night. This study was published this past week & it got me to thinking about insomnia as a side effect of cancer treatments. This is a serious problem not only during treatment but also when you are finished.

First let’s explore why Americans are having a problem sleeping. Then we will look at why cancer patients have trouble sleeping. Lastly, we will look at natural ways to help both groups. According to the CDC & my research, none of the sleep aids out there have been proven to be effective, even though 9 million Americans reported taking sleeping pills!

The definition of insomnia: MedicineNet: “The perception or complaint of inadequate or poor-quality sleep due to a number of factors, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep, waking up too early in the morning, or unrefreshing sleep.”

A Third of Americans Aren’t Getting Enough SleepCDC experts looked at health surveys covering more than 400,000 Americans. They were asked how many hours of sleep they get each night, among other questions.

On average, only 65 percent said they get seven hours or more of sleep a night, the team reported. “Sleeping less than seven hours per night is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, frequent mental distress, and all-cause mortality,” the team wrote in the CDC’s weekly report.” 

The CDC also looked at specific groups & economic status: “…only about half of blacks report they get enough sleep, compared to two-thirds of whites and Hispanics. Sleep may also be tied to economic conditions.

People in the Southeast and Appalachian regions reported the least sleep, on average. “Previous studies have shown that these regions also have the highest prevalence of obesity and other chronic conditions,” the CDC team wrote.”

1 In 3 American Adults Are Not Sleeping Enough: “In total, an estimated 83.6 million adults in the U.S. are sleep-deprived, said the CDC, who released their findings based on surveys with 444,306 participants. The report looked at results involving all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, the first time a sleep-related study has canvased all states for its findings. Both of these articles talk about the demographics in the study. For example: “Those living in South Dakota are getting more required sleep than those living in Hawaii, where only around 56% of respondents said they were sleeping more than seven hours.

Some get even less sleep than others—around 11.8% reported a sleep duration of less than 5 hours. The biggest culprits of sleeping less are those between the ages of 35 and 44—around 38% of people in this age group shun more sleep.”

What are the causes of insomnia according to the CDC:

  • Unemployment.
  • Artificial lights from computers, mobile devices & TV screens.
  • No bedtime routine.
  • No routine time for getting up in the morning.
  • Having computers, mobile devices & TV’s in the bedroom.
  • Divorced, widowed or separated.

What about cancer treatment, why does it cause insomnia?  From the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute:  “It’s common for patients to experience insomnia during and after treatment. If insomnia is not treated, it can add to existing symptoms such as pain, fatigue and anxiety. Some causes of insomnia include:

  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Physical discomfort, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, hot flashes, or pain
  • Side effects from medication, chemotherapy or radiation
  • Conditions such as acid reflux, thyroid issues, or bladder problems
  • Unfamiliar environments or changes to routines, such as an overnight stay at the hospital

This site goes on to say that: Patients who receive steroids as part of their chemotherapy treatment are more likely to experience sleep problems. If possible, try to take the steroids early in the day.

Other non-cancer medications that can affect sleep include:

  • Mixed amphetamines for ADHD (e.g. Adderall)
  • Beta-blockers for high blood pressure
  • Albuterol for asthma
  • Pseudoephedrine for allergies (e.g. Benadryl, Sudafed)
  • Anti-depressants (e.g. Prozac)

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center agrees: “Treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and steroids can cause disturbances in your sleep patterns that last long after treatments have ended. Insomnia — defined as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights a week for a month or more — can lead to significant daytime tiredness. Stress, pain, and other physical and emotional symptoms can contribute to insomnia as well.” 

I think to be fair or balanced about the causes of insomnia for cancer patients, we need to add in the information from the CDC study. The list now looks like this:

  • Unemployment.
  • Artificial lights from computers, mobile devices & TV screens.
  • No bedtime routine.
  • No routine time for getting up in the morning.
  • Having computers, mobile devices & TV’s in the bedroom.
  • Divorced, widowed or separated.
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Physical discomfort, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, hot flashes, or pain
  • Side effects from medication, chemotherapy or radiation
  • Conditions such as acid reflux, thyroid issues, or bladder problems
  • Unfamiliar environments or changes to routines, such as an overnight stay at the hospital.

To help with the problem of insomnia, besides prescribed medications, here are some ideas based on our above list.

Unemployment, divorced, widowed or separated: No, I am not going to say “get a job” or “find a partner”. Taking control of your environment & your daily routine is important. Establish a routine to take care of your personal needs. Bathe, wash your hair, brush your teeth, keep your nails clean & filed. Eat at regular times. Exercise. This also helps with depression & the feeling of isolation.

Artificial Lights: Many studies have shown that using your computer, watching TV, playing video games, and texting before bedtime can interfere with your sleep pattern. It can keep the hormone melatonin from working. Turn off all your devices 1-2 hours before your bedtime. Do something relaxing such as meditation, yoga, reading or handwork such as knitting or crocheting. Anything that you find relaxing that doesn’t require a plug 🙂

These devices should not be in your bedroom at all. Your bedroom should be for sleeping & sex only. It should not be an office or TV room. The energy emitted from these devices will interfere with your sleep pattern.

Routine times for going to bed & for rising in the morning: This sounds simple, but it is difficult to establish if your lifestyle is hectic. Decide on a time to get into bed. Mine is 10:30 pm. I read for a few minutes in bed then usually drift off by 11 pm. Adding 7-8 hours to that & I set my alarm every morning for 6:30 am. I have been doing this for so long that I wake up just before the alarm goes off. If I don’t adhere to this routine I don’t function well. Naturally there are times when we don’t get home until later than my bedtime. In that case I either set the alarm for later or keep to my routine.

This is another way of taking control of your environment. Anxiety, depression & stress will be less because you are rested. Everything looks better with a good nights sleep.

Stress & Anxiety: Exercise, but not within 3 hours of your bedtime. Instead, establish a routine for mindfulness, meditation, or guided imagery just before you go to bed.

Using complementary modalities such as art, dance, yoga, energy healing, massage & acupuncture regularly, will help alleviate stress & anxiety.

Chamomile tea, warm nut milk, warm shower or bath all help. Another idea to consider, is to avoid discussing fears, money, politics etc at least an hour before bed.

Nausea & vomiting: Ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger cookies & ginger chews all relieve nausea due to your treatments. Peppermint & chamomile tea will help settle your stomach. Hydrate!

Headache: Hydration is very important. Most headaches are due to dehydration. Water is the fluid of choice. Coffee & caffeinated teas are diuretic & should be avoided. 

Rubbing a topical peppermint oil into your temples will relieve headaches & tension. Make sure it is a topical oil & not an essence used for aromatherapy. 

Acid Reflux: Don’t lie down for 1-2 hours after eating or snacking. Ginger & peppermint teas help. Slippery Elm lozenges are fantastic for acid reflux. I like Thayers.  Slippery Elm is used by herbalist for acid reflux & has a long history of success.  

Pain: Gentle exercise, acupuncture, massage & energy healing done regularly will alleviate most pain. These are complementary modalities & will not interfere with any of your treatments. Note the word gentle!

I found this wonderful recipe that is calming & will help to relieve muscle & bone pain.  Chamomile & Turmeric Evening TeaThis recipe also includes ginger, cinnamon & honey. All, including the chamomile are anti-inflammatory, & great sleep inducers!

Hot flashes & night sweats: These are unique to each person. Some just get hot suddenly, some women feel it start in the feet & make its way up to the top of their heads. In any case, I hate to say this but caffeine can make it worse. See if laying off coffee~OH NO!!!~ or caffeinated teas slow down the hot flashes & night sweats. Sage tea every evening helps with both. Cooling Sage Tea

I don’t encourage soy or black cohosh supplements. They may interact with your medications or interfere with your plan of recovery. You need to discuss these with your oncologist. 

The Mayo Clinic has a great article about Insomnia Lifestyle & Home Remedies. Let’s add some of their advice to our list:

  • Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. Close your bedroom door or create a subtle background noise, such as a running fan, to help drown out other noises. Keep your bedroom temperature comfortable, usually cooler than during the day, and dark. Don’t keep a computer or TV in your bedroom. I need a cool, dark room.
  • Hide the bedroom clocks. Set your alarm so that you know when to get up, but then hide all clocks in your bedroom, including your wristwatch and cellphone, so you don’t worry about what time it is. I tried this & it is helpful. When you wake during the night & look at the clock you begin to make judgments 🙂  “Oh no! I have to get up soon or sh*t, I have only slept an hour!” 
  • Get out of bed when you’re not sleeping. Sleep as much as you need to feel rested, and then get out of bed. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed after 20 minutes and do something relaxing, such as reading. Then try again to get to sleep. This works for me only if I leave the bedroom. I quietly go into the living room & read with a low light. Do Not play with your phone, computer, iPad etc. You can also have a soothing cup of tea.

What about food? What foods will help with sleep? Here is a nice article: Eat right, sleep tightThe author recommends:

  • Drinking a glass of warm milk before bed will help you to sleep better – it’s not just an old wives’ tale. Dairy products are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which helps in the production of the sleep inducing brain chemicals, serotonin and melatonin. You can also use a nut milk. Add honey, & a dash of nutmeg. They are both sleep inducers.
  • Eating a carbohydrate-rich snack, like a few oatcakes or a bowl of cereal, an hour or so before going to bed stimulates the release of insulin. This helps to clear amino acids that compete with tryptophan from the bloodstream, allowing more of this sleep-inducing amino acid to enter the brain. Whole grains are best, they slowly release sugar into the system to stimulate the insulin.
  • Herbal teas, such as chamomile, passion flower tea and valerian, have a sedative effect. Valerian is a favorite of mine, but you need to take it with care as a supplement. It can interact with medications. It is safe as a tea. Nighty Night with Valerian Tea.
  • Foods that aid sleep include yogurt, milk, oats, bananas, poultry, eggs, peanuts and tuna as they all contain good amounts of tryptophan. Kefir would be a good choice because it is a probiotic. Having a happy gut will help you sleep.
  • Research has shown certain minerals to be effective as a natural remedy for insomnia. Magnesium and calcium work together to calm the body and help relax muscles.  A lack of these minerals may cause you to wake up after a few hours and not return to sleep. Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods. In magnesium deficiency, chronic insomnia is one of the main, central symptoms. Magnesium rich foods include spinach, bananas, nuts, seeds, fish and wholegrains. If you don’t do dairy, you can get your calcium other ways. Check our Topic page: Calcium for vegan sources. Dr. Low Dog posted this not too long ago.

Magnesium Low Dog

A couple of notes:

  • Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our body that regulates sleep. The amount secreted decreases as we age. As it gets dark the pineal gland begins to secrete the melatonin. Scientific studies have shown little or no benefit from melatonin supplements. I find this interesting because there is so much anecdotal evidence. Maybe it is a placebo effect 🙂 
  • Citrus, especially lemon stimulates the brain. Not a good idea before bed.
  • Aroma therapy is wonderful to help induce a relaxing feeling. These essential oils are very popular because they are warming & relaxing: lavender, & chamomile.

You now have a lot of ideas to help with insomnia for your healing toolbox. I wish you all a relaxing, undisturbed sleep……Mary

**photo by Mary Hollander

Update on the BMI chart & arsenic in rice.

Dr. Hyman What is at the end of your fork


In previous posts I have discussed the BMI chart, obesity & weight loss due to cancer treatments. In these posts I have stressed that everyone is an individual, unique in body type, metabolism & personality 🙂 Because of this, I have never understood why a BMI chart would be useful. According to a new study it isn’t.

I started out my August 15th, 2015, Blog post, Obesity & Cancer Risk with the following paragraph: “Obesity is a complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It increases your risk of diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Being extremely obese means you are especially likely to have health problems related to your weight. The good news is that even modest weight loss can improve or prevent the health problems associated with obesity. Dietary changes, increased physical activity and behavior changes can help you lose weight.”  Mayo Clinic.

In the same Blog post, I said that: The BMI chart doesn’t know the difference between body fat & muscle. Muscular athletes would be under the obese category. Children, pregnant women, & nursing mothers can’t use this chart either. 


An article last week, on February 8th, was published by 14U News:  BMI PROVEN INEFFECTIVE ACCORDING TO STUDY“This is definitely some good news for people who have higher BMIs but don’t think that they are overweight, obese, or generally unhealthy. There has been a new study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, which found that over 50 million Americans who had been labelled as overweight or obese according to the BMI (body mass index) scale actually aren’t unhealthy. 

Commenting on the BMI chart the article states: However, this doesn’t necessarily hold up because there are people who are in excellent physical shape that have been grouped into that obese or overweight group since the reading doesn’t take muscle tone into account. It also doesn’t show that people with “healthy” BMIs could also be unhealthy.” This article talks about the study & the folly of using the BMI chart to indicate “health”. It also notes that some health insurances penalize individuals based on the their BMI. In the case of a cancer patient this doesn’t take into account their treatments. For example, weight gain due to steroids & extreme weight loss due to treatment. 

A healthy weight should be based on other more reliable markers such as waist measurement, height, blood pressure, age, lifestyle, diseases & treatments.  

In other articles on the website World News Online, BMI reportsyou will find the same conclusion…the study is a nail in the coffin of the BMI chart! Let’s hope so. 

One article on this site, Goodbye to the BMIstates: “Using data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the scientists analyzed the link between BMI, which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of the person’s height in meters, and several health markers, including blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. The results showed that more than 2 million people identified as “very obese” by virtue of having a BMI of 35 or higher are, in reality, healthy; that’s about 15% of Americans so classified. The research also revealed that more than 30% of those with BMIs in the “normal” range, about 20.7 million people, are actually unhealthy based on their other markers.

“Not only does BMI mislabel 54 million heavier individuals as unhealthy, it actually overlooks a large group of individuals considered to have a ‘healthy’ BMI who are actually unhealthy when you look at underlying clinical indicators,” said Hunger. “We used a fairly strict definition of health. You had to be at clinically healthy levels on four out of the five health indicators assessed.”

Bottom line? Throwing out the BMI chart, what weight are you most comfortable at that keeps all the indicators: blood pressure, blood sugar & cholesterol within normal limits? Add in your treatment & its side effects & re-evaluate that number on the scale with your healthcare team. What would constitute a “healthy” weight for you?



Check the Rice package for the companies name & address to find out where the rice is grown. I use Lundgren Family Farms organic rice. It is farmed in California. I trust their products. Take a look at their website after you read about arsenic in rice in this part of my post. defines arsenic: “Arsenic: A metallic element that forms a number of poisonous compounds, arsenic is found in nature at low levels mostly in compounds with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. These are called inorganic arsenic compounds. Arsenic in plants and animals combines with carbon and hydrogen. This is called organic arsenic. Organic arsenic is usually less harmful than inorganic arsenic.” This is a very good site if you want to know more about organic & inorganic arsenic & their health risks. “Arsenic is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). Breathing inorganic arsenic increases the risk of lung cancer. Ingesting inorganic arsenic increases the risk of skin cancer and tumors of the bladder, kidney, liver, and lung.”

Arsenic FactsThe information on this website is from U.S.A. Rice: “America’s rice farmers and rice companies are fully committed to providing healthy and nutritious food to consumers; and although there is no scientific evidence of a public health risk as a result of the trace amounts of arsenic found in rice, we will continue to work with FDA to ensure the U.S. rice supply meets any established health standards.”

Also on this site: “Is the arsenic content of U.S.-grown rice similar to that found in imported rice?: The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded U.S.-grown rice has the lowest inorganic arsenic of all countries tested. 2 ”  This is a biased site but it contains a lot of good information so don’t discount it.

This next 2014 article, ConsumerReportsHow much arsenic is in your rice?  contains information regarding recommendations that were made concerning arsenic in rice consumed by children & adults. Very good read. Make sure you watch the short video. The article also has this chart showing which rice has the most arsenic in it:


Here is one more article that explains the problem & its solution. From the National Institute of Environmental  Sciences: Arsenic uptake discovery could lead to safer rice “An international team of researchers from China, Germany, and the United States has made a key finding in the long-standing question about how environmental arsenic ends up in grains of rice. The discovery, published in the January 2016 issue of the journal Nature Plants, may pave the way for approaches that prevent or reduce arsenic uptake, making one of the world’s major food crops safer for human consumption. Arsenic in rice is a known health risk to populations that rely on the grain in their diets. Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment and is a known human carcinogen that is associated with skin, lung, bladder, kidney, and liver cancer.” This article sites a research teams study of the pathways of arsenic into the rice kernel. The study is extremely important because it can help change the ways rice is grown to reduce the uptake of arsenic in the soil. 

As a consumer, what should we do. First of all, let’s not panic. This is a subject that has been raised in the field of nutrition for years. Steps have been taken to reduce the arsenic in foods, especially in children’s foods. Rice is a very healthy grain, especially rice with the bran left on. Don’t stress about this. The media always plays up the negative aspects of studies. They also omit what is being done to correct the problem both by our FDA & internationally. 

Here are my recommendations:

  • It doesn’t change the arsenic level if you buy organic rice. Organic rice does reduce your risk from toxic sprays used on rice crops.
  • A healthy diet varies in whole grains. You wouldn’t choose rice for every meal. A varied diet of whole grains gives you a balanced intake of the nutrients you need.
  • White rice is okay occasionally, but don’ rely on it just because it has less arsenic in it. Nutritionally it is deficient.
  • Rinse rice & cook in a large amount of water. According to the Environmental Working Group, : “Rinsing rice before cooking may reduce arsenic content to some extent. Some research indicates that the amount of arsenic in rice can be cut by as much as 40 percent if the rice is boiled in a large volume of water like pasta and excess water discarded. For perfect brown rice: Here’s a recipe. Cooking rice like pasta is a good option for brown rice, whose superior nutritional benefits must be balanced against higher arsenic content. I have always cooked my rice this way; 1 cup of rice to 6 cups of water. Not because I thought it was better, but because no one told me how to cook it 🙂 Follow the above link for EWG’s take on this problem with arsenic in rice. Very good & scientifically based.
  • Check the ingredients on processed foods & limit those that have rice as an ingredient. Limit processed foods anyway!
  • Rice milk has never been a good choice. It is watery & doesn’t have the same nutritional content as nut milks. If you use rice milk, then switch to a nut milk. EWG states: “Great Britain’s Food Safety Authority cautions parents to avoid rice milk as a dairy alternative for toddlers from age one to four and a half. Consumer Reports tested samples of two common brands of rice milk and found arsenic levels ranging from 17 to 70 parts per billion — all exceeding the federal drinking water maximum of 10 parts per billion.”

If you have any questions or concerns about the continued headlines regarding arsenic & rice email me at

I am sharing this link to a wonderful TED talk that Dr. Daniel Vicario, SDCRI’s Medical Director, sent me yesterday. It is profound. We take for granted our bodies ability to heal itself. This is a short video & definitely worth watching: Intentional medicine – shifting the focus of healthcare | Libby McGugan | TEDxGlasgow  …..Mary

Inflammatory & Anti-Inflammatory foods

Swan Apple


We talk about chronic inflammatory diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes & cancer. What does that mean & what is the difference between acute & chronic inflammation? What specific inflammatory foods will contribute to increasing the risk & re-occurrence of cancer? What specific anti-inflammatory foods will contribute to decreasing the risk & re-occurrence of cancer?

The National Institute of Health: National Cancer Institute states the following:Inflammation is a normal physiological response that causes injured tissue to heal. An inflammatory process starts when chemicals are released by the damaged tissue. In response, white blood cells make substances that cause cells to divide and grow to rebuild tissue to help repair the injury. Once the wound is healed, the inflammatory process ends.” Usually you see redness, swelling, pain, and the area feels warm or hot to the touch. This is a normal immune system response to cuts, abrasions, incisions, mouth sores, or even skinned knees.

“In chronic inflammation, the inflammatory process may begin even if there is no injury, and it does not end when it should. Why the inflammation continues is not always known. Chronic inflammation may be caused by infections that don’t go away, abnormal immune reactions to normal tissues, or conditions such as obesity. Over time, chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and lead to cancer.” There are blood tests that will indicate an inflammatory process going on in the body. CRP (c-reactive protein) is one that is used in many cancer settings. In general the higher the CRP level the more aggressive the chronic inflammation is. There are other markers that are used as well.

How you live & behave also leads to chronic inflammation; stress, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol, lack of sleep & diet choices. Environmental factors also affect us. Eating organic will cut down on inflammatory toxins in your food.

“Eat what ever you want” is standard advice from many oncologists. They are trying to get you to increase your caloric intake. Instead, this advice usually translates to an increase in calories from processed foods, fast foods, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates~including sugar~ & an increase in red meat consumption. All of which are high in calories, yet nutrient deficient. These foods also promote chronic inflammation. 

Excerpts from the Huffington Post article: Inflammatory Foods: 9 of the Worst Picks for Inflammation.  This is one of the best articles & lists I have seen regarding inflammatory foods to avoid. Make sure you read the entire article. For now, anti-inflammatory diet guidelines are simply suggestions. More research is needed to truly understand the relationship between diet and inflammation and, in turn, disease, WebMD reported. Still, there are some general ideas about what foods to avoid to keep inflammation and illness at bay. “There are foods that exaggerate inflammation because they themselves are irritants,” says Daniluk. Here are some of the worst offenders you might want to avoid;

1. Trans Fats

While processed foods are slowly but surely cutting back on trans fat, it’s still smart to investigate labels for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and leave those packages on the shelf. Trans fats can induce inflammation by damaging the cells in the lining of blood vessels, according to the Mayo Clinic, part of the reason many companies are limiting use to begin with, says Sandquist. Although small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in certain foods, the majority are man made and therefore difficult for the body to process, Black explains. “Our body doesn’t have a natural mechanism for breaking it down,” which can trigger an inflammatory response,” she says.

2. Sugar

“Trans fats should be old news, sugar should be new news,” says Black, calling it the food item we most ignore when it comes to our health (although, that may be changing). “I don’t think our body was meant to break down as much sugar as we consume,” she says. Too much sugar can alert the body to send out extra immunity messengers, called cytokines, Daniluk wrote for CNN.

3. White Bread

White breads and pastas break down quickly into sugar, and in turn lead to inflammation. In a 2010 study, researchers found that a diet high in refined grains led to a greater concentration of a certain inflammation marker in the blood, while a diet high in whole grains resulted in a lower concentration of two different inflammation markers. White breads are a telling example of inflammatory foods, says Daniluk. “They’ve been refined in a way that goes against nature, goes against what our bodies need,” she says. Processing away the nutritional properties of whole grains leaves “fast-digesting carbohydrates beyond empty calories,” she says, which irritate our bodies. Common ones are: white rice, white flour, white bread, noodles, pasta, biscuits and pastries.

4. Cheeseburgers

Animal fats have been linked to inflammation in a number of studies. One tracked how our beneficial gut bacteria change after eating saturated fats and found that “as the balance of species shift, it can trigger an immune response that results in inflammation and tissue damage,” Scientific American reported. Saturated fats also contain a compound the body uses to create inflammation naturally called arachidonic acid, according to U.S. News. Diets lower in this molecule have anti-inflammatory effects and have been shown to improve symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The way you cook your meat could also be a factor, says Daniluk. Grilling it on high can result in inflammatory carcinogens, and a sugary marinade won’t do you any favors, either. Keep in mind, the experts say, that some saturated fat is needed. Just be sure to consume in moderation.

5. Alcohol

Alcohol is naturally irritating to our insides, says Daniluk, but shouldn’t cause lasting problems unless you overdo it. With a few too many drinks, however, bacteria can more easily pass through the intestinal lining, leading to irritation and inflammation, according to U.S. News. “It’s immediate sugar when it’s metabolized,” says Black, “so you have to weigh the benefits and drawbacks.” Small amounts of alcohol have been linked to lower risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, for example, “but if you get past a certain threshold, you stop getting the positive effect,” she says

6. Omega-6 Fatty Acids

The average American gets more omega-6 fatty acids via diet than omega-3s, but this imbalance can lead to inflammation, according to U.S. News. “We’re thirsty for omega 3s, which can turn off the inflammatory messengers,” says Daniluk. To quench that thirst, cut back on omega-6 heavy seeds and vegetable oils and add more fatty fish and walnuts.

7. Milk

While moderate intake of low-fat dairy can actually guard against inflammation, whole milk or even two-percent is still high in saturated fat and could mean trouble. But a majority of adults have at least some difficulty digesting milk, so overdoing it could trigger a true inflammatory reaction, says Black.

8. MSG

There’s some research in animals to suggest that the preservative and flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate can create inflammation. While few of MSG’s effects are understood in much depth, it may be best to avoid, the experts say. “We probably don’t really understand the mechanism behind MSG [causing inflammation],” says Black, “but it’s not a chemical your body is used to. It’s not like it’s a part of broccoli.”

9. Gluten

Even without a diagnosis of celiac disease, a number of people report feeling better after eliminating gluten from their diet. In fact, a full 30 percent of American adults are now actively avoiding gluten. Science is still largely inconclusive on what’s been called “gluten intolerance,” but Daniluk thinks sensitivity that leads to bloating or digestion changes could be an inflammatory response to gluten.

*** Reminder to read the article:  Inflammatory Foods: 9 of the Worst Picks for Inflammation. 

I would add the nightshade plants to this list. Some people, including me, report more joint pain and an overall inflammatory response when eating these; 

  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes 
  • Most peppers

Research has not yet confirmed this. I would encourage you to note how you feel after eating any nightshade plant. For me, I can eat eggplant & potatoes once  a week without a problem. I do have to eat tomatoes & peppers in moderation. Cooked are worse than raw for me. Keep a food journal 🙂 

Red meat note: Corn-fed beef is the culprit here. Grass-fed beef is better for you. It has a lower Omega 6 – Omega 3 ratio, less saturated fat & has more of an antioxidant effect. If you eat red meat then make sure you buy grass-fed. 

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, exercise & relaxation techniques are all naturally anti-inflammatory. This is because they strengthen your immune system and calm your immune response. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce inflammation in as little as six weeks! I imagine the DASH & MIND diets would do the same thing.

Here are some specific foods that are anti-inflammatory & should be added to your diet. I compiled this list from my research on the subject.

  • Cruciferous veggies: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
  • Dark green vegetables such as spinach, collard greens & Swiss chard.
  • Fish that are high in Omega 3’s: salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel.
  • Garlic; my favorite! Onions including leeks.
  • Turmeric: one of the best researched anti-inflammatory foods. Add it to your food all day long!
  • Ginger, garlic, basil, rosemary & pepper have anti-inflammatory properties. Use in your foods during the day.
  • Dark chocolate: 70% & above. The higher % the better; less sugar & dairy!
  • Nuts & seeds: Walnuts, almonds & peanuts; hemp & pumpkin seeds.
  • Whole grains: No white rice please! Good choices for whole grains are brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet, wild rice or steel-cut oats.
  • Beets & beet root are on many lists for being anti-inflammatory.
  • Sweet Potatoes.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Berries: all fruits are anti-inflammatory to some extent but berries, especially blue berries, are the stars!
  • Shiitake mushrooms. Cooked mushrooms are more anti-inflammatory than raw ones.

I hope that this post will be of help to you. If you are having joint & muscle pain as a side effects from your treatment, you have arthritis of any kind, or you have an auto-immune disease, the information above pertains to you also……Here’s to good health!…Mary

P.S. The swan in the photo was made from an apple by my grandson Winston. He sent me the photo to use in exchange for room & board when he visits me here in Crescent City. Always the entrepreneur 🙂

Two recipes I came across on the Block Center: Integrative Cancer Treatment website. They are both anti-inflammatory dishes!