Selecting, Buying and Cooking Fish

In a previous article, I talked about the benefits of incorporating fish and seafood into your diet.  The health benefits of eating fish and seafood twice a week are well researched but some people may still hesitate simply because they are not sure of what type of fish to buy, how to select, or even cook it.  The good news is that the whole process is easier than you think when armed with a few helpful tips that I am going to share with you.

Selecting Your Catch

Fortunately for us seafood lovers, there is a variety of options.  Some are healthier for us than others with regard to concerns of mercury, PCBs, and other carcinogens, as we discussed in the last article.  High on the list of good seafood choices are flounder, haddock, shrimp, scallops, farm-raised trout, and catfish. Light tunas, such as skipjack, blue fin, yellow fin, and tongol can also be eaten in moderation each week, as can salmon.

This is not an exhaustive list, but if you want a great way to be able to identify which fish and seafood products are while in the supermarket, consider checking out a great phone application from the Blue Ocean Organization (  This non-profit group produces a free cell phone application that ranks over 100 edible fish and seafood items using a color scale to rate them from green (ecofriendliest and healthiest) to red (containing high levels of mercury, PCBs, and other carcinogens).  The application is updated twice a year so it’s current and definitely convenient when standing at the supermarket counter trying to decide which seafood item is best for you.


Hands down, the best fish and seafood are fresh.  It is best when in the season because it is plentiful and generally cheaper too.  Regrettably, it is sometimes hard to determine just how fresh some seafood is as it could be anywhere from one day up to two weeks out of water.  That makes knowing (and trusting) the source of your seafood all the more important so be sure to only purchase seafood from a reputable vendor. 

If you live near the water and have access to local fish markets, then scoring fresh fish is a lot easier.  Fish market vendors should know their catch and can tell you exactly where it came from and how long it has been there.  If you are buying from a supermarket and they can’t tell you when they got that item in, how long it has been on ice, or even where it was caught, then walk away.  Never be afraid to ask these questions!

Do not buy any seafood that is more than a couple of days old.  Fish and seafood should be firm to the touch and spring back when touched.  Above all, it should not have any strong odors or ironically have a strong fish smell.  Fresh seafood should have that “fresh sea” aroma.

Fresh fish isn’t always an option and if it’s not, have no fear because there is another option.  “Frozen at Sea” (FAS) refers to fish and seafood that has been flash frozen at extremely low temperatures quickly, often shortly after it has been caught, right on the ship.  When thawed, most people can’t tell the difference between FAS and fresh.  Seafood that has undergone the FAS process will have that right on the label so read the packaging.  Thanks to the USDA, the packaging will also tell you if the product is wild-caught or farm-raised, and the country of origin.


Fish and seafood tend to deteriorate quicker than most meats so it’s important that you plan on cooking your purchases, if fresh, within 24 hours.  Prior to cooking be sure to keep your catch in the coldest part of the refrigerator and rinse thoroughly with cold water before cooking.

The easiest pieces of fish to prepare to tend to come in fillet and steak form.  These pieces are ready to cook and are already portion sized.  There is a host of options for cooking your fare, and it will likely depend on your preference and the item you are cooking.  In the case of fish, you have multiple options ranging from pan-frying to baking and from steaming to grilling.

I’ll leave you one bit of advice when cooking fish.  A common cooking mistake is to cook fish until it “flakes.”  Don’t do it.  Fish that have gotten to the point of flaking is usually dry and overcooked by the time it reaches that state.  Instead, remember that fish is fully cooked when the color turns from translucent to opaque (usually white).  If you can’t tell when that is, then pull out the old trusty meat thermometer.  Fish is done when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Dirty Meat Takes a Toll

It seems like every few months when we turn on the news, we are hearing about another meat recall.  E coli contamination is an often-used reason and not surprising considering the USDA has reported that 60 percent of the largest meat plants in the US have failed to meet federal food safety regulations for preventing E. coli bacteria in their products.  With 73,000 infections and 61 deaths each year, according to the CDC, E. coli is a definite concern, but it is regrettably not the only one for meat eaters.

Eating meat has been linked to a variety of diseases including diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer, and I cannot say I am surprised considering meats have been found to be loaded with dangerous contaminates, hormones, herbicides, pesticides, and even antibiotics.  All are added in the name of making meat safe for human consumption.  

There are several that advocate a diet without meat and point out that humans simply weren’t meant to eat meat.  Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, authors of the books Living Healthy and Fit for Life, argue that people are not physiologically adapted to consume animals and that is why we are so prone to cancers and other types of degenerative meats.  Others like Dr. T. Colin Campbell of The China Study suggest that we are exposed to small amounts of cancer-causing chemicals on a daily basis, but that cancer doesn’t occur unless we consume foods (like meat) that promote and nurture tumor development.  Thus, we intake high amounts of animal protein, in excess of what we need, promoting cancer growth.

These arguments and others, like the one against processed meat consumption (i.e., over 7,000 studies prove that eating these meats isn’t healthy for anyone), do make sense.  However, a meat-free diet isn’t realistic for many of us and I’m not advocating one here by any means.  Lean, clean, and unprocessed meats play an important role in our health.  These types of meats provide essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals and are supported by various research studies including the U.N.’s FAO and Stanford University, which found in one report that “Animal source foods … play an important role in ensuring optimal health and function, and their consumption is particularly important for women of reproductive age, fetuses, and young children.” 

What I am suggesting though is a diet where we become more conscious about the selection, preparation, and eating of certain meats, and yes, eating the appropriate servings of meat as well.

To do so, we need to do our homework.  How many times have you heard that before, right?  Well, it holds true in this and any number of other situations.  An informed consumer is a healthy consumer.  You need to learn more about the quality and health of the meats you are eating.  Granted, this isn’t always easy depending on where you buy your meat.  Packaging isn’t always clear and finding out where your meat comes from can be as challenging as winning the lottery!  Yet, with the stakes – your health – so high, digging deeper for the answers you need is necessary.

What do you need to find out?  Start by asking a couple of questions such as:

1.  How was this meat raised?  A large percentage of US meat is raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).  Unfortunately, CAFOs are known for utilizing various pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals in the raising of livestock.  Furthermore, the methods to raise the animals are often cited as less than humane.  Finding meat that was raised organically is definitely the better option.

2.  How were the animals fed?  This refers to grass-fed versus grain fed.  An animal fed with grain generally struggles with higher levels of acidity in its stomach.  That’s significant for us because E. coli bacteria is known to survive and thrive in such an environment.  Grass-fed is a better alternative when available.

Again, finding this information out, particularly if you shop at a large supermarket chain may be difficult, which raises the point that you may want to consider buying organic meat, and if that’s not possible, shopping locally from area farms and farmer’s markets.  I’ll guarantee you they can tell you exactly where the meat they are providing you with comes from!

Finally, once you’ve purchased the meat, you have one last important step to undertake and that’s preparing it.  How you cook the meat is just as important as where it comes from.  For instance, blackening or charring meat releases high levels of Heterocyclic Amines (HCA), which have been linked to cancer.  Additionally, cooking meats over high temperatures can form Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) which cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, increasing your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.

The appropriate amount of animal protein in your diet can prove beneficial provided it comes from a healthy, disease-free source and is cooked properly.  While I think many of us have reached the point where we tune out the announcements of yet another study linking some food item to this cancer or that disease, we cannot ignore them.  Instead, we need to become more informed to make the best decisions possible about our health.  One great place to start, if you are a meat eater, is here.

Is Eating Seafood Good or Bad?

Seafood is a great low-fat, high-quality protein.  It’s filled with valuable Omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins such as D and B2, and is rich in calcium and minerals like iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.  Unfortunately, research over the last few years has alerted consumers to a few concerns.  Primarily that harmful substances such as mercury, DDTs, PCBs, pesticides, and other chemicals can accumulate in some fish.  This has left many people hesitating as to whether or not to keep fish in their diet.  My answer is an emphatic yes!

The American Heart Association recommends we eat seafood twice a week as part of a healthy diet.  Seafood has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.  Two main studies by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Institute of Medicine have confirmed that the health benefits of eating seafood regularly outweigh the dangers from mercury and other contaminants even for pregnant women and children.  It was found that in adults, the death rate for those that suffer from heart disease was 36 percent lower in adults that ate fish twice and week compared to those who ate little to no seafood.  That’s definitely a benefit that cannot be overlooked!  

This is a great example of where you need to weigh the benefits with the risks and put everything in perspective.  No question, harmful substances can accumulate in some seafood and that can be risky for certain groups of people, but I want you to know that’s the exception, not the norm.  The key is to maintain a diet that has a lot of variety when it comes to seafood and to select products that are considered relatively safe.  In other words, don’t eat a diet filled with only one or two types of seafood. 

When it comes to mercury, the worst offenders are tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.  Tuna and tuna steak are also of concern, but experts suggest you can still eat these fish if you really love them, just do so in moderation. 

Where have we heard THAT word before? 

The recommendation for tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel is no more than twelve ounces a week.  If you need your tuna fix, then feel good knowing you can still safely consume up to six ounces a week.  

As mentioned, the list of healthier seafood choices is a lot bigger than you may think.  The list includes salmon, farm-raised catfish and trout, sardines, herring, anchovies, scallops, canned mackerel, and light tuna, oysters, crawfish, ocean perch, shrimp, haddock, sole, and flounder are just a few.  

Again, remember that the key to enjoying the health benefits and reducing the potential risks is to eat a variety of seafood twice a week.

Medifast Diet


In the early 1980s, a John Hopkins University physician developed the Medifast program for surgical patients as a way to lose weight quickly prior to surgery.  Once only available through a physician’s office, the program is now available in the mainstream diet market and can be undertaken without the approval of a physician.  


Medifast claims you can lose up to 20 pounds in the first month alone by eating its pre-packaged meals.


Medifast is a meal replacement program that uses portion-controlled pre-packaged, nutritionally balanced, low-fat foods to facilitate weight loss.

Program Overview

Medifast meals are shipped directly to a participant’s home.  The meals come in individual packets that you mix with water and microwave or refrigerate, and are available in a wide variety of foods and flavors, with over 70 different menu options, including shakes, soups, stew, chili, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, fruit drinks, iced teas, hot beverages, bars, and puddings. 

One of the more popular weight loss plans is the Medifast 5 & 1 Plan, which consists of eating five pre-packaged Medifast meals and one Lean & Green meal prepared by the participant each day.  A meal is eaten every two to three hours.  Daily caloric intake is kept at between 800 and 1,000 calories a day.

The Lean & Green meal can be eaten at any time during the day.  It includes a lean meat plus a salad and/or vegetables. The lean meat can be a 7-ounces portion of chicken, turkey, fish, beef, pork, lamb, or shellfish that is grilled, baked, or poached. For the greens portion of the meal, participants select any three servings from Medifast’s approved vegetable list, such as broccoli, spinach, eggplant, or tomatoes.   

In terms of drinks, participants have their choice of any calorie-free beverage.  However, it is recommended that those on the diet drink at least 64 ounces of water each day.  Alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged while on the program.

Medifast suggests that participants stay on the 5 & 1 Plan until they have lost the desired amount of weight.  Once that is accomplished, participants are expected to transition into the Maintenance Plan.  During Transition, participants reintroduce fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and higher-carbohydrate vegetables into their diet, while giving the body time to adjust to its new level of calories and carbohydrates.  Then, it is on to the maintenance portion of the program.

Meal plans can be tailored specifically to meet the needs of men and women, young and old, as well as for people who suffer from diabetes, or require kosher, low glycemic, vegetarian or lactose-free meal plans.  

Online support through the MyMedifast weight-loss community, clinical support through the Medifast Weight Control Centers, and personal support through the Take Shape For Life Health Coach Network are available to participants.

Plan Strengths

Meal options and variety are plentiful on the Medifast program. The convenience of having the portion size already measured, and the cooking is done, is attractive to many people.  Additionally, the Medifast products have been safely and effectively used by participants and recommended by physicians for over 28 years.  

Medifast enjoys pointing out that it is one of only a few weight loss programs that have clinical trial research to back it up.  While not an extensive body of research, a handful of clinical trials by reputable institutions have found that participants on Medifast do achieve results.  In one of the most recent studies, a clinical trial published in the Journal of Nutrition (2010) suggested that participants using the Medifast 5 & 1 Plan, when compared to a self-selected isocaloric food-based diet, lost twice as much weight after completing an initial 16-week program.  According to the study, 93 percent of participants using Medifast for a 16-week period showed significant weight loss on the program, and participants demonstrated a significant increase in lean muscle mass as a percent of total weight.  Participants also lost an average of 5 inches on their waistline.    

The program incorporates the importance of daily physical activity and exercise into its program.  It stresses the need for getting at least a minimum of ten minutes of exercise each day, and while it does not provide personalized exercise plans, it does offer guidelines and recommendations for daily workouts.

Weight loss is definitely likely to occur considering how restrictive calorie intake is, and the recommendation for exercise.  Participants generally report losing anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds a week.  Severely overweight individuals (BMI greater than or equal to 30) have generally reported the greatest weight loss results.

Plan Weaknesses

Cost is likely to be a prohibitive factor for many people.  The Medifast 5 and 1 plan, for example, costs about $300 for four weeks of pre-packaged meals, and that does not include the ingredients you are expected to buy for the Lean & Green Meal.  If you were to stay on the program for the suggested 16 weeks, that is a minimum of $1,200.

Medifast also warns that participants may experience hunger, tiredness, irritability, headaches, and lightheadedness until they reach a fat-burning stage, which could take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on the individual.  

The American Dietetic Association believes that the diet if undertaken should be done under the supervision of a physician given that the minimum daily calorie intake of between 800 and 1,000 calories is below the considered healthy recommendation of 1,200 calories.  


The Medifast plan has a proven record of accomplishment with clinical studies to back it up.  It does a great job of restricting caloric intake and stressing daily exercise, and for severely overweight individuals, the program has proven successful.  However, transitioning back into eating regular foods may be challenging for some people and the cost of meals may be a major financial hurdle for many.  

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here. Before starting a new exercise regime or weight loss plan, talk with your doctor.

Additional Resources

Medifast official website,

Medifast diet plan review, 

Can You Really Freeze Off the Fat?

Is Cryolipolysis the Miracle Fat Cell Killer?

Did you know there’s a medical procedure that claims to destroy fat cells?  No, I’m not talking about liposuction.  In fact, a procedure called lipolysis attempts to dissolve fat cells using non-surgical means such as laser, ultrasound, or RF current.  A few manufacturers, including Zeltiq Aesthetics, have actually developed devices to perform these types of procedures.  Zeltiq’s device is called cryolipolysis.  

Here’s how it works.   One of these cooling devices is set against the skin in an area where you want to get rid of fat.  It is able to cool the skin, pushing the temperatures of the fat cells to below zero degrees Celsius.  At such low temperatures, the subcutaneous fat cells die off, are broken down in the liver, and are eliminated by the body through urine over several months.    

Studies on the use of cryolipolysis are very limited, as it’s a relatively new procedure.  One study however conducted by Dr. Mathew Avram at the General Hospital of Dermatology Laser and Cosmetic Center in Boston suggests that the procedure may prove to be an effective and non-invasive way to remove fat.  His study found a 22 percent reduction in the fat layer 2 to 3 months after the actual treatment for the 18 participants of his study.

The results sound promising, but there are drawbacks and potential red flags.  First, the cryolipolysis device received approval from the FDA, but not as a fat remover. It has been approved as a fat-reducing application in Canada and the European Union, but not here.  In the U.S., cryolipolysis was approved only for the purpose of anesthetizing and cooling the skin.  Some doctors would argue this isn’t a big concern since many pills and devices are often used off-label.  Off-label refers to a doctor using their best judgment when it comes to using a device or drug as a treatment for something other than what its intended use is on the label.  This practice is legal provided it doesn’t violate any regulations.  

Secondly, the procedure is not for everyone.  It is recommended for patients that are already fit and in good health, which to me is somewhat ironic, considering these people probably don’t need the procedure to start!  Furthermore, it can’t treat large fat areas, and works best for smaller problem areas like love handles.  Cost may also be an issue for many people as one treatment can range from $1,500 to $3,000.

Did I mention the side effects?  A mild-burning sensation and some numbness are expected.  While most people haven’t reported any major problems, there have been a few cases of patients who have described pain after the treatment that was severe and persisted for several weeks.  Unfortunately, if you try to treat the pain with narcotics, anti-inflammatories, or steroids, you could potentially limit the procedure’s benefits.

Finally, studies that exposed cells to cold temperatures showed cell damage and a possible link to cancer later in life.  As cryolipolysis is a relatively new procedure, it’s too early to tell whether exposing fat cells to such cold temperatures will actually lead to more serious health problems further down the road.  The research just isn’t there yet to tell us.

Cryolipolysis may seem like a dream come true for some people looking for an easy way to deal with problem fat areas, but you really need to ask yourself if the benefits will outweigh the potential health concerns.  My guess is for most people it will not.

The Radiation Diet


History is marked by environmental disasters that have resulted in people being exposed to radiation.  While the devastating disaster of Japan is still unfolding, and the full extent of the damage is unlikely to be known for some time, there have been other events that come to mind.  Russia’s Chernobyl and the U.S.’s Three Mile Island are but two that often spring to mind, but the largest and most devastating in terms of loss of life is the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

Between 150,000 and 246,000 people are believed to have lost their lives within the first two to four months of the bombings in Japan.  Of that, it is estimated that roughly 15 to 20 percent died from radiation sickness, 20 to 30 percent from flash burns, and 50 to 60 percent from other injuries compounded by illness.  While both horrific and devastating, the events in Japan provided scientists with valuable insights into radiation disease.

Since the late 1940s, leading nutritional scientists, public health educators, and environmental organizations have often met to discuss what to do in the event of a similar situation, where a population experiences a nuclear attack or accident.  Once it was realized that people could actually survive a nuclear explosion, questions as to how to improve the odds of survival became an obsession for many.

Studies were conducted and plans developed based on findings from Japan and other events, and one of the most interesting aspects that emerged was the idea that certain foods and dietary approaches may actually aid in providing protection from radioactive pollutants.  Amazingly, there were foods you could consume on a regular basis that could prevent radioactive pollutants and related contaminants from entering your body.

Supporting Evidence

The effect radiation has on the body is best illustrated by accounts given of the devastating after-effects of the 1945 Japan atomic bombings.  Millions of people who survived the initial blast had to contend with the effects of the radiation.  Those living in close proximity to the blast sites developed symptoms of radiation sickness within a matter of days.  In Nagasaki, Dr. Tatsuichiro Akizuki at the St. Francis Hospital soon recognized the effects the fallout from the bomb was having on his staff.

He devised a program to combat the symptoms of radiation disease, which involved placing his staff and patients on a strict traditional Japanese diet of brown rice, miso, tamari soy soup, wakame, kombu and other sea weed, Hokkaido pumpkin and sea salt.  Banished was the consumption of sugar and sweets.  The results were astounding.  According to one of his books, recounting the events, Akizuki claimed that his patients and staff survived and recovered from the radiation sickness, while other survivors perished.

Canadian researchers at McGill University of Montreal in 1968 offered even more evidence of radioactive-fighting foods.  Through a series of laboratory experiments, they discovered that sea vegetables such as kelp, kombu, and other brown seaweeds contained a polysaccharide substance called sodium alginate that could selectively find radioactive strontium particles in the body and help to eliminate them.   Moreover, it was able to remove the radiation from bones without interfering with the absorption of calcium.  

In 1974, Japanese scientists published a similar study in the Japanese Journal of Experimental Medicine (44: pgs. 543 – 46), which found that several varieties of Kombu Mojaban (a form of sea vegetable common in Asia) had proved effective at treating tumors in mice.  The sea vegetable was found to inhibit the implantation of sarcomas in roughly 89 to 95 percent of samples tested.  In fact, the scientists actually noted that tumors completely regressed in half of the mice tested.

What to Eat

Whether you are worried about radiation from health and dental procedures such as x-rays or mammograms or from fallout, several foods incorporated into your diet will naturally help to combat the effects of radiation.  

Sea Vegetables

A variety of marine algae can offer significant protection against the absorption of radioactive particles that may be released.  Kombu (common kelp), or seaweed like nori that is used in making sushi rolls are usually easy to find, but they are not your only options.  Just a few tablespoons daily of these sea vegetables, or others like hiziki, wakame, arame or mekabu, will provide sufficient protection.  Note, I said just a few tablespoons.  As these foods are concentrated minerals, eating more will not provide any additional benefits.

Sea vegetables should be an important part of any diet, regardless if you are concerned about radioactive particles or not.  These vegetables have antioxidant benefits, and are an excellent source of iodine, iron and vitamin K.  They are also a good source of the B-vitamin foliate and riboflavin, magnesium, iron, and calcium.

Sea vegetables come in a wide variety of colors, each having their own distinct shape, taste and texture.  Descriptions of the more common varieties are provided here:

  • Nori: dark purple-black color that turns phosphorescent green when toasted, used in sushi rolls
  • Kelp: light brown to dark green in color
  • Hijiki: a strong flavored vegetable that looks like small strands of black wiry pasta
  • Kombu: used in soups, this vegetable is very dark in color and generally sold in strips or sheets
  • Wakame: used a lot to make Japanese misou soup; it is similar to kombu  
  • Arame: this sea vegetable has a milder, almost sweeter taste in comparison to its cousins
  • Dulse: a reddish-brown colored sea vegetable that is soft and chewy in texture

What to Buy

When shopping for sea vegetables, look for those that are sold in tightly sealed packages.  Sea vegetables kept in sealed containers at room temperature can actually stay fresh for several months.   If you see evidence of moisture, do not buy.  Sea vegetables are packaged differently and come in sheets, flakes, or even powder form.  What you’ll buy will depend on what you want to use it for in cooking.  

How to Prepare

Sea vegetables generally do not require any cooking.  Many can be added to a dish after a good 5 to 10-minute soak.  However, it’s always best to follow the directions on the package for the best results.

You can use sea vegetables in sushi rolls, on top of salads, in a bowl of miso soup, or even when cooking beans.  Here are a couple of recipes using sea vegetables that you might want to try:

5-Minute Miso Soup with Dulse 

  • 1 cup boiling water 
  • 1 tbs. miso 
  • ¼ cup sliced dulse seaweed 
  • 2 tbs. minced scallion 
  • 1 tbs. grated ginger 
  • 2 tbs. diced tofu (optional)

Directions:  Add miso, ginger, and dulse to one cup of boiling water.  The soup is ready in 5 minutes.  Serving size:  1

Seaweed Rice

  • 2 medium pieces wakame, (2 tbs. soaked and chopped) 
  • 2 tbs. chopped dulse seaweed 
  • 2¼ cups warm water 
  • ½ medium onion, minced 
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice 
  • salt and white pepper to taste 

Directions:  Chop garlic and mince onion, then let them sit for 5-10 minutes.  Rinse wakame, and soak in warm water. After 5 minutes, squeeze out the water from the wakame and chop it. Save the water.  While wakame is soaking, chop the dulse. Heat 1 tablespoon of seaweed soaking water in a medium saucepan. Sauté chopped onion over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic, rice, chopped seaweed, and soaking water.  Bring water to a boil on high heat. As soon as it begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for about 35 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.  Serving size:  4


Miso is a type of soybean paste that is popular in Japan; however, in recent years, it has become a more familiar product in U.S. supermarkets.  Miso, while generally made from soybeans, can also be made using rice, barley or wheat.  A yeast mold called koji is added to the main ingredient and the mixture is fermented anywhere from a few weeks to years, depending on the type of miso.  Once the fermentation process is complete, the ingredients are ground into a paste and sold. 

Used more as a flavoring agent, a small amount of miso packs a powerful punch.  Just one tablespoon of miso contains 2 grams of protein and 25 calories.  While high in sodium (1 oz contains 52% of the recommended daily value for sodium), miso has distinct health benefits.  It is a great source of vitamin B12 and K, tryptophan, magnesium, copper, and omega fatty acids.  

Researchers have found that miso paste, used as a bouillon in soup broth, has a remarkable health quality, especially when combined with root vegetables like carrots, onions, turnips, or radishes.  This combination is effective at stimulating good digestive enzymes and eliminating harmful pollutants from the bloodstream.  

What to Buy

Miso is sold in tightly sealed containers and will usually have a freshness stamp that you need to check.  Make sure that there are no additional additives like MSG in the product.  Also, beware of lesser quality misos that add chemicals, sugar, or genetically modified soybeans.  Once opened, keep it in the refrigerator.  If sealed tightly, it can keep for up to one year.

Color plays a big role in terms of the taste of misos.  Darker-flavored misos are stronger and more pungent, they are best for heavier foods, while the lighter-colored misos are more delicate and best in soups, dressings, and light sauces.  

How to Prepare

Miso can be used in soups, on sandwiches, and even as a marinade for meat, fish or poultry.  Here are a few recipe suggestions for miso:

Ginger Miso Carrot Soup 

  • 1 qt vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 or 6 dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup slivered carrot
  • 6 ounces or so of cubed tofu
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbs. yellow miso
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • rice noodles

Directions:  Bring vegetable stock, water, carrots, and mushrooms to a boil. Add ginger and sugar, and allow to boil for about ten minutes, or until the carrots are cooked. Add the tofu. Lower heat to simmer, and add seaweed. Remove about a cup of liquid from the pot, and stir the miso into that liquid until it is smooth with no lumps. Replace the liquid, and allow it to come to a very low simmer. Add rice noodles, and simmer until they are soft.  Serving size:  4

Grilled Vegetables with Miso

  • 1 tbs. shoyu
  • 2 tbs.  sugar
  • 2 tbs. dry white wine
  • 50 ml dashi (Japanese soup stock from kelp)
  • 2 tbs.  red miso
  • 2 tbs. soybean oil
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into slices
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1 medium onion
  • 10 shiitake mushrooms, without stems

Directions:  In a pan, combine the first four ingredients (shoyu, sugar, white wine, and dashi). Slightly heat over medium to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add the red miso and mix until the sauce is smooth. Cut onion in half and then cut crosswise into thick slices. With a wooden pick, skewer each onion slice to keep the rings together.  Heat the grill and brush it with some soybean oil. Place vegetables on the grill and brush with the soybean oil. Grill the vegetables for about 5 minutes, turning once. Brush the red miso sauce on the vegetables and grill each side for another 30 seconds.   Serving size:  4

Miso Dressing

3 tbs. miso

100 ml water

50 ml vegetable oil

2 tbs.  vinegar

1 tsp. prepared mustard

Directions:  Mix the miso and the water. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve over a salad of your choice.

Brown Rice

Short-grain, organically-grown brown rice is one of the best grains for cleansing the body and good maintaining health.  Brown rice is an excellent source of manganese.  Just one cup of brown rice can give you 88 percent of your daily value of manganese.  Manganese helps your body produce energy from protein and carbohydrates, and is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids.  It is also an extremely important component of the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD).  SOD offers us protection against damage from the free radicals that are produced during energy production. Other vital nutrients and minerals found in brown rice include magnesium, selenium, and tryptophan.  

What to Buy

Rice is often available and purchased in bulk.  As brown rice contains a lot of natural oils, it is important to check the package to see if there is a “use-by” date.  If kept too long, brown rice can become rancid.   Brown rice should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  If stored properly, it can last for up to six months.

Secondly, it’s also important to purchase organic varieties.  Why?  Research suggests that some brands of non-organic U.S. long-grain rice have been shown to have anywhere from 1.4 to 5 times more arsenic than rice from Bangladesh, India, or Europe.

How to Prepare

Thoroughly rinse the rice under running water before using it to ensure all dirt has been removed.  After cleaning, add one part rice to two parts boiling water or broth.  When the mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for roughly 45 minutes. To receive the maximum protective elements, and to make good digestion and absorption possible, you should chew brown rice, like all whole grains, extremely well.  

Brown rice can be used in a variety of dishes ranging from rice pudding made with soymilk to sushi to flavorful rice salads.  Here are a couple of recipe suggestions to get you started:

Fiesta Brown Rice Salad

  • 4 cups cooked brown rice 
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 cup corn 
  • 1 cup black beans 
  • 4 tbs. favorite vinaigrette 
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin 
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbs. chopped cilantro 

Directions: Combine 4 cups of cooked brown rice, diced bell peppers, corn, and black beans. Toss with your favorite vinaigrette.  Add 1 tsp. cumin seed and a pinch of cayenne to dressing. Sprinkle rice salad with chopped cilantro.  Serving size:  4.

Quick Black Beans and Rice

  • 1 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, undrained
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked instant brown rice

Direction:  In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, cook, and stir until tender. Add beans, tomatoes, oregano, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil; stir in rice. Cover; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Service size:  4

Hokkaido Pumpkin

Hokkaido pumpkin is actually a type of winter squash that is of the buttercup variety.  This squash has a green, bluish-gray or deep orange skin. The flesh is deep yellow. It is also known as Kabocha (which is Japanese for squash), Ebisu, Delica, Hoka or Japanese Pumpkin.  

Squash has an abundance of carotenoids, including alpha and beta-carotene, which are powerful antioxidants that battle the free radical activity that can damage cell structure and DNA.

How to Prepare

Hokkaido can be cooked whole or split lengthwise after removing the seeds.  It has a rich, sweet flavor and is often dry and flaky once cooked.  You can use this squash in any recipe you would use a buttercup squash in.  Here’s a great one to try.

Hokkaido Pumpkin Soup

  • 1 Hokkaido pumpkin 
  • 2 carrots  
  • 1 shallot onion 
  • 20-ounces of bouillon 
  • 1 tbs. oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:   Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and cut the cleaned carrots in half.  Place pumpkins and carrots on a cookie sheet and roast until soft to the touch.  This will take approximately 40 minutes. Remove pumpkins from the oven.  Heat one teaspoon of oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion, vegetables, and add bouillon.  After cooking the mixture for about 10 minutes, puree it and cook it for another 5 minutes. Taste it and add salt and pepper to taste.  Fry thin slices of pumpkin in oil and serve it on top of the soup before serving.  Serving size:  4

Other Radiation Fighting Foods

Several other foods have been found to fight the effects of radiation such as:

  • Orange and dark green colored vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, carrots, kale collards, chard, and spinach have been shown to protect against radiation-induced cancers. 
  • Cabbage family vegetables such as arugula, turnips, radishes, cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts can protect your cells from the effects of radiation.
  • Both green and black tea have been found to have radioprotective effects when taken either before or after exposure to radiation.
  • Dried beans, particularly lentils, have been shown to reverse DNA damage from radiation.

Foods to Avoid

There are also foods you should cut back on such as salt, fat, alcohol, and sugar. Not only are these products filled with empty calories, but research suggests that, in some cases, they can contribute to the development of cancer in the body.  Scientists have discovered that some types of tumors actually feed off of sugar.  Dr.  Akizuki may well have been ahead of his time when he banned the consumption of sugar and sweets when developing his diet to combat radiation sickness in 1945.  We’ve long been told these products could kill us if we didn’t monitor our intake closely!


While the threat of a nuclear disaster is minimal, we must remember that our bodies are still bombarded by radiation almost on a daily basis.  True, it is normally not at any significant level that it will kill us, but it still can have damaging effects on our overall health.  So, if you could naturally incorporate foods into your diet that could boost your immune system against the effects of radiation and other free radicals that can lead to cancer, wouldn’t you do it?

12-Week Weight Room Workout

Phase 1: 3-Day Routine with Combined Training Split

Weeks 1-6 

  • Warm-up: Perform 5-10 minutes of cardio to warm up if you are not doing your cardio first. Also, perform some light stretches. 
  • Rest between sets should start at 60 to 90 seconds and progress to 90 to 180 seconds in the later sets. Record rest periods between all sets.
  • Reps will range from 10 to 15 for the first 2 sets and drop to 4 to 6 reps per set for the remaining 3 sets.
  • When performing Grinder Gym or BodyWarfare workouts keep the weights light.

Early AM: N/A (Performing 2-3 Conditioning workouts minimum)

Total Body Resistance Training A:

Exercise SetsReps
Dumbbell Flat Chest Press34-6
Barbell Incline Chest Fly34-6
Dumbbell Shoulder Press34-6
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises34-6
Dumbbell-Over Head Extensions34-6
Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks34-6
Barbell Squat34-6
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Dead Lifts34-6
Barbell Bent-over Row34-6
Dumbbell Biceps Curl34-6

Total Body Resistance Training B:

Exercise SetsReps
Barbell Bent-over Row34-6
Dumbbell One Arm Row on Bench34-6
Dumbbell Shrugs34-6
EZ Bar Upright Rows34-6
Dumbbell Biceps Curl34-6
Dumbbell Hammer Curls34-6
Dumbbell Flat Chest Press34-6
Dumbbell Shoulder Press34-6
Barbell Squat34-6
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Dead Lifts34-6

Total Body Resistance Training C:

Exercise SetsReps
Barbell Squat34-6
Dumbbell One-Leg Step Up On Bench (perform on each leg)34-6
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Dead Lifts34-6
Barbell Front Lunges34-6
Standing Calve Raise34-6
Barbell Bent-over Row34-6
Dumbbell Flat Chest Press34-6
Dumbbell Shoulder Press34-6
Dumbbell Overhead Extensions34-6

Phase 2: 3-Day Training Split

Weeks 7-12

  • Warm-up: Perform 5-10 minutes of cardio to warm up if you are not doing your cardio first. Also perform some light stretches. 
  • Rest between sets should start at 60 to 90 seconds and progress to 90 to 180 seconds in the later sets. Record rest periods between all sets.
  • Reps will range from 10 to 15 for the first 2 sets and drop to 4 to 6 reps per set for the remaining 3 sets.
  • When performing Grinder Gym or BodyWarfare workouts keep the weights light.

Early AM: N/A (Performing 2-3 BodyWarfare workouts minimum)

Monday: Upper Body Push (Chest, Shoulder, and Triceps)

Exercise SetsReps
Dumbbell Flat Chest Press34-6
Dumbbell Incline Chest Fly34-6
Weighted Bar Dips34-6
Dumbbell Shoulder Press34-6
Dumbbell Alternating Front Raises34-6
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises34-6
Dumbbell-over head Extensions34-6
Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks34-6
Dumbbell Triceps Skull Crushers34-6

Wednesday: Upper Body Pull (Back, Biceps, and Traps)

Exercise SetsReps
Dumbbell One Arm Row on Bench34-6
Barbell Bent-over Row34-6
Dumbbell Pull-over34-6
EZ Bar Upright Rows34-6
Barbell Shrugs34-6
Dumbbell Side Drag34-6
Dumbbell Biceps Curl34-6
Dumbbell Hammer Curls34-6
EZ Bar Preacher34-6

Friday: Lower Body (Quads, Hamstrings, and Calves)

Exercise SetsReps
Barbell Squat34-6
Seated Sled Press34-6
Dumbbell One-Leg Step Up On Bench (perform on each leg)34-6
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Dead Lifts34-6
Barbell Forward Lunges 34-6
Standing Calve Raises34-6
Seated Calve Raise34-6

Diets for the Summer


It seems like every time the temperatures start falling and the days start growing shorter, many people begin packing on the pounds.  You may think this is an exaggeration or a reflection of poor willpower around two huge holidays focused on eating, but there is an actual physiological explanation.  

As the weather gets colder, the blood vessels in the skin contract, and when our extremities grow colder, blood begins to move to the center of our bodies.  This event stimulates some of our internal organs such as our digestive tract, and things start hopping, meaning our appetite increases.  We all know what happens after that.  Yes, you guessed it, we gain weight!

If you want to look at it from a more “natural” perspective, consider the view presented by Eastern medicine.  According to Eastern philosophy, the fall season is a time for the body to store energy, which just happens to correlate with the harvest season.  That time when grains and fruits, nature’s most nutritious foods, are available in abundance.  In the spring and summer, we are troubled by a lack of energy associated with an imbalance between yin and yang.  However, by the fall season, our bodies begin to stabilize as the yin-yang balance is restored so we begin to store up our reserves for winter.  Therefore, we need to be extremely careful in the fall and winter seasons, as our propensity for gaining weight is a lot higher.

Regardless of how you chose to view it, the result is the same.  Not only is gaining weight in the winter months so much easier, but our ability to hide it, and thus live in denial, is even greater.  It becomes so easy to hide those extra pounds under bulkier winter clothes, or to justify a few extra pounds with the rationale that we’ll take it off come spring and summer.  Unfortunately, what often happens is summer sneaks up on us before we’ve even had a chance to take those extra pounds off, and hiding away beneath heavy sweaters and coats just isn’t an option anymore.  Swimsuits and shorts are unforgiving!

So, now what?

Well, if you’re reading this book, you are obviously looking for a way to get in shape and stay that way for the summer.  However, I’ve got to warn you, if you are looking for some magic quick fix that’s going to whip you back into shape in a  couple of weeks, you’ve come to the wrong place.  While I can definitely give you the right tools to help you get into fighting summer shape, it’s going to take dedication, time, and effort on your part.  If you are willing to devote yourself to getting back into shape and staying that way, then definitely read on!

Finding Focus

The first step in this process is largely psychological.  You need to commit to making this lifestyle change.  Notice I said lifestyle change and not diet.  Dieting isn’t what this program is about.  It’s about embracing a lifestyle that promotes healthy eating and physical activities.  These are the keys to your success, and meticulous planning and consistent execution are the tools that will help you achieve success. 

The good news is that you don’t have to purchase any expensive plan or special equipment to get the job done.  In fact, you can develop your own plan of action.  After all, who knows better than you what will and will not work when losing weight?  The bad news is you will need to be disciplined and follow the plan you develop, if you want to be successful. 

Eating Healthy

If you want to shed a few pounds for the run up to the summer season, you are going to have to alter what you eat. Yes, a whole lot depends on not just HOW MUCH you are eating, but WHAT you are eating. When you start to restrict the intake of calories and select healthier foods that reflect a balanced diet, your body will start using the fat, it’s stored to generate energy and you will lose weight. 

As I mentioned, it is okay if you do not choose to follow a particular diet plan.  However, you will need to educate yourself on what foods you can eat, and eliminate the ones that are high fat, high calorie. If you eat healthy foods in moderate amounts, you are half way to losing and keeping the weight off. The other half of the equation is increasing your physical activity level, which we will discuss in the second half of this book.

What to Eat

The Healthy Eating Pyramid is an essential tool that guides us towards eating nutritious food.  The Healthy Eating Pyramid should not be confused with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid, as they are completely different.  How?

The Food Guide Pyramid (also known as My Pyramid), produced by the USDA, while well-intentioned, is flawed in terms of guiding people in eating a healthy diet.  The recommendations are often rooted in out-dated science or are simply influenced by various special interest groups looking to make a profit.  Therefore, the legitimacy of these recommendations is somewhat suspect.    

The Healthy Eating Pyramid, created by the Harvard School of Public Health, is an alternative guide to better eating.  The pyramid’s foundation is built on the ideas of daily exercise and weight control, two components that strongly influence your overall health.   

In general, a healthy diet should consist of daily exercise and the following food groups:

  • Whole Grains
  • Healthy Fats & Oils
  • Vegetables & Fats
  • Nuts, Seeds, Beans, and Tofu
  • Fish, Poultry, and Eggs
  • Dairy (1 to 2 Servings Per Day) or Vitamin D/Calcium Supplements
  • Red Meat, Processed Meat, and Butter (Used Sparingly)
  • Refined Grains—White Bread, Rice, and Pasta; Potatoes; Sugary Drinks and Sweets; Salt (Used Sparingly)

The Healthy Eating Pyramid was created based on the best dietary information available today.  It follows one guiding principle and that is that a healthy diet includes more foods from the base of the pyramid than from the higher levels.  In other words, more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and less red meat, butter, white rice, and pasta.  Easy enough, right?

Tips for Eating Healthy

Here are a few tips to follow when creating your healthy eating summer action plan: 

  • Make it quick and easy.  Your plan has to fit your lifestyle in order to work well.  Like your expectations, the eating plan you design has to be realistic and doable.  
  • Plan ahead.  Creating a written plan that you follow allows you to not only track what you eat, but also to evaluate if you are eating plenty of the foods you need and less of the foods you don’t.  
  • Use visualization to stay motivated.  If you are trying to get back to a lower weight, and you have pictures of when you were at that weight, pin them up on your mirror or refrigerator.  Put them somewhere you look at frequently.  Imagine yourself back at that weight, and focus on how great it will be to be at that weight again.  If you are short on pictures, but maybe have a certain outfit you would love to wear, like a swimsuit, find a picture and use it as your focal point.  
  • Keep a food log.  Research has shown that keeping a record of what you eat helps you to lose weight.  It really makes sense as most people who have to write down everything they put into their mouth, often rethink whether it’s worth it or not.  Keeping a record also helps you to identify the types of foods you are eating and if you are getting the right amounts.  Maintaining a log should be easy and convenient.  Do it the old fashion way with pencil and paper, or check out one of the many free online websites that will do it for you such as FitDay.  
  • Fill your pantry and refrigerator with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. For instance, tart fruits like blueberries and strawberries are rich sources of protein, vitamins, and antioxidants. These are also highly fibrous fruits and help improve your immune system, brain and memory function, and learning abilities. You can make these fruits into interesting dishes by adding fat-free yogurt and making a creamy smoothie or add them to salads to spice up a dish’s color and taste. Research shows that strawberries are useful in keeping blood sugar levels under control and thus help fight diabetes. They are even helpful in providing your body with Vitamin C and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium. 
  • Make cooking fun.  Summer is a great time to try new recipes and experiment with wonderful seasonal flavors.  
  • Eat a good balance.  The plan that you make should include more protein and fiber and fewer carbohydrates. 
  • Eat smaller but more meals throughout the day. This will help to boost your metabolism, which will in turn help you to burn more calories.
  • Make drinking more water an important part of your plan.  Water is necessary to hydrate your body, and for processing food.  Drinking water regularly keeps your system stable, helps in digestion, and improves cell functions as well. Recommendations on water intake vary, but 8 to 10 glasses a day is a good guideline.  Obviously, the more physically active you are, you should plan on drinking even more.  Additionally, if you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages, then you’ll need to compensate by drinking more water too, since caffeine actually decreases hydration.
  • Control alcohol intake. It decreases metabolism and aids in fat storage. 
  • Eat fish that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential fats as they raise metabolism. Mackerel and salmon, like flaxseed, are high in essential fats, which benefit heart patients as well. 
  • Spice it up.  Spice up your table with mustard, pepper, and ginger, which have been found to increase metabolism. Clove, cinnamon, and bay leaf fight your sugar cravings. 
  • Milk does your body good.  Go for skim milk, which is fat-free, but rich in calcium. 
  • Apart from eating healthy, eat on time. Eating meals at odd hours are nothing but unhealthy, so maintain a proper schedule for your body and eat at the same time every day. Never eat your meals in a hurry, and always chew every bite well before you swallow it. 
  • Learn to understand your body and give it what it wants. Eat when your body really needs it, and do not fall prey to false hunger such is sometimes the case when you are actually thirsty. 
  • Indulge in the most important meal of the day.  It is bad to skip your breakfast as it can lower your metabolism, making you feel pale and wan throughout the day. Your energy levels throughout the day depending on what you eat at the breakfast table. Consuming calories in the morning can easily be burned off throughout the day.


Fresh summer fruits are not only a great source of vitamins and nutrients, but they are the perfect refreshing fare on a hot summer day.  Fruit (as well as vegetables) are also a great source of potassium and dietary fiber.  The added bonus of the phytonutrients, which protect us against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases associated with growing older, can’t be beaten.  Other than just eating fruit in its natural state, you can make a salad out of it and top it with low-fat ice cream. You can also make yummy shakes. 

Peaches, Plums, and Nectarines:  Abundant in the summer, these juicy fruits are rich in beta-carotene, which can protect you against heart disease and cancer.  They also contain luitein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids that help filter and shield your eyes from sunlight, protecting them against such disorders as macular degeneration and cataracts.  Did I mention that peaches and plums also contain flavonoids, another line of defense against cancer and heart disease?

Melons:  A great fruit for hot summers is melon. The watermelon surely ranks as the best thirst quencher, and the taste is naturally sweet, especially the organically produced types. Apart from other nutrients, they are a rich source of potassium, which helps control blood pressure. 

Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are tasty, color-rich treats that come filled with the strength of antioxidants to prevent cell damage. The tiny morsels are packed with loads of fiber and have few calories. Munch on them or cook them, as you like. Toss some of them on your cereals or mix them into your salads for a filling meal. 

Mango: This juicy and delicious lovely orange-colored fruit is fiber-rich and filled with potassium, Vitamins A and C, and is very low in calories.  Mango can be used in a variety of ways.  You can juice it, make a milkshake, put it in a fruit salad, on pancakes, cereals, yogurt, waffles, puddings, or cakes.   The possibilities are endless.

See red with tomatoes: this lycopene-rich fruit has many health benefits. Use this low-calorie juicy delight in all your summer dishes. Select fresh, firm, and dark red tomatoes and keep them at room temperature. The canned variety can also be added to your pasta, soups, and salads. 

You could also try these tempting fruit-based recipes:

Fruit Frittata 

  • 1 clove, garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 6 ounces chopped spinach
  • 2 large peaches or nectarines, or 3 large plums
  • 6 eggs 
  • 2 tbs. water 
  • 1/4 cup shredded Muenster cheese
  • 1 tbs. fresh basil (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a heavy, ovenproof 10-inch fry pan, sauté one clove of minced garlic and one small onion, thinly sliced, in 1-tablespoon olive oil just until wilted. Add 6 ounces chopped fresh spinach and heat through, blending with the onion and garlic. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Remove from heat. Remove pits, slice two large fresh peaches or nectarines, or three large plums, and arrange slices on top of the spinach mixture. Beat six eggs with 2 tablespoons of water and pour over all ingredients. Top with 1/4 cup shredded Muenster cheese. Sprinkle with one tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves, if desired. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until set. Cut into wedges and serve. Makes six servings. 

Mango Banana Smoothie

  • 2 frozen, ripe bananas
  • 1 mango, peeled and sliced
  • 10 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice
  • 1 cup low-fat or fat-free vanilla or mandarin orange yogurt

Cut the banana into chunks. In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. If the smoothie is too thick, thin with a little more orange juice. Makes four servings. 


Green vegetables are healthy as well as they provide you with several key essential vitamins and nutrients. Try out delicious recipes and maintain healthy eating during summer. You can put them in salads, casseroles, or consider using them in soup. Make vegetable sandwiches or grill them up. A variety of vegetables such as carrots, onions, zucchini, garlic, peppers, eggplant, and asparagus are great on the grill. 

Beans are a great substitute for meat and they are very versatile.  Beans are high in protein and fiber. They can be used in a variety of dishes including salads, pasta, salsa, soups, or stews.   Most beans can be stored for long periods, if properly sealed, so they make a great staple for any pantry.

Try these great vegetable-based dishes:

Grilled Vegetable Kebabs 

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 12 oz halved mushrooms
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar

Whisk the oil and vinegar and set aside. Cut each bell pepper into 12-inch wide pieces. Cut the zucchini into 12 half-inch slices. Cut the onion into 12 pieces. Thread the vegetables, alternately, on to four large skewers. Marinate the kabobs in the oil and vinegar mixture for 15 minutes. Grill them over medium coals for 12 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned, turning them once. Serve hot.  Makes four servings.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, quartered
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup prepared Italian salad dressing
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread (14 ounces), halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

In a large Ziploc bag, combine the zucchini, pepper, onion, and salad dressing. Seal the bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Drain and discard the marinade.  Brush cut sides of bread with oil; set aside. Place vegetables on the grill rack. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender. Remove and keep warm. Grill bread, oil side down, over medium heat for 30-60 seconds or until toasted.  In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, peel, and garlic. Spread over the bread bottom; sprinkle with cheese. Top with vegetables and remaining bread. Cut into four slices. Makes four servings.

The “It’s Too Hot to Eat” Salad

  • 2-15oz cans black beans, drained and *well-rinsed*
  • 1-15oz can whole kernel no-salt-added corn
  • 1 medium to large tomato
  • 1 medium bell pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 mango

 Finely chop the tomato, pepper, and onion, and coarsely chop the mango.  Mix everything together.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Let chill for at least an hour before serving.

If you do not like to eat vegetables, try turning them into delicious refreshing soups.  Soup?  In the summer?  Absolutely!  There are a lot of filling soups that can be eaten cold such as Gazpacho, Roasted Tomato Soup, Cucumber, and Vichyssoise (a cold pureed potatoes and leek soup).

Eating fruits and vegetables that are in season will allow you to enjoy the freshest produce at the lowest price.  Also, check out your local farmers’ markets, which do a good job of providing a wide selection of fresh in-season vegetables year round.  


Grilling in the summer months is a favorite cooking method for many people.  If you love to grill, you know that just about anything can be grilled including fruits and vegetables.  However, when it comes to eating light and grilling, the two can easily go hand in hand if you select the right meats.  Try to stick to lean cuts of beef, chicken breasts, and ground turkey during the summer.  Grilled seafood is another good option.   The key is to select lean cuts of meat such as sirloin, flank, and tenderloin, and to remove the skin on white-meat poultry choices. Also, keep the serving size smaller, around 3 ounces.

Ground turkey is a healthy alternative to ground beef, and if you are a hamburger lover, you will be pleasantly surprised by the substitution.  Try this tasty burger idea:

Juicy Turkey Burgers

  • 1 medium apple, peeled and finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 6 whole wheat hamburger buns, split
  • 6 lettuce leaves
  • 6 tomato slices

In a large bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients. Crumble turkey over the mixture and mix well. Shape into six 1/2-in.-thick patties. Using long-handled tongs moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Prepare the grill for indirect heat using a grill pan.  Place burgers over a drip pan and grill, covered, over indirect medium heat or broil 4 inches from the heat for 6-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165° and juices run clear. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve on buns with lettuce and tomato.  

Makes six servings.

What about a Raw Food Diet?

During the summer months, when it’s especially hot, the idea of cooking or eating anything hot isn’t very appealing.  People tend to look for alternatives and often start hearing more about the Raw Food Diet, so, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss this diet approach.

The raw food approach is based on eating whole, living, nutritionally dense organic, uncooked, unprocessed foods – approximately 75 percent or more of your diet to be exact.  By eating such a diet, you reap the rewards of eliminating toxins, energizing your body, and ultimately losing weight.

Raw food proponents insist that cooking food destroys important enzymes needed in the digestion and absorption of foods.  Cooking food is believed to diminish its nutritional value, as well as its life force.  Instead, a diet of mostly living or raw foods is advocated.

Participants of a raw food diet focus on eating unprocessed and uncooked plant foods.  Typically, at least 75 percent should come from living or raw sources.  Primary foods ingested on this diet include lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, dried fruit, legumes, and seaweed.  Vegetable and fruit juices are also encouraged, as they are considered an effective way of absorbing nutrients into the body.  

Most followers of this approach tend to be vegetarian and do not eat animal-based products such as meat or dairy.  However, some followers do include raw, organic animal products such as free-range organic chicken, sashimi (raw fish), meat (Carpaccio), and organic eggs and yogurt.  Foods and drinks that are considered taboo include almost all other meat, fish and dairy products, as well as distilled liquors, caffeine, and refined sugars.  

While the primary tenant behind the raw food diet is that food should not be heated above 116- 118 degrees Fahrenheit, some other forms of “cooking” techniques are permitted.  Juicing, blending, soaking, and dehydrating foods to make foods more palpable is allowed.  

Compared to the typical Western diet, the raw food diet contains fewer trans and saturated fats.  It is also lower in sodium and higher in potassium, magnesium, folate, and fiber.  One study in the Journal of Nutrition also found that the consumption of a raw foods diet assisted in lowering total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations.

Advocates of the raw food diets believe the health benefits of this approach are numerous.  For those proponents, the diet has brought increased energy, improved skin appearance, and digestion, reduced risk of heart disease, the elimination of unwanted toxins, and weight loss.  

Additional one comprehensive study, which reviewed over 50 existing medical studies of raw versus cooked food diets found that eating a diet loaded with raw vegetables was instrumental in reducing the risk of oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophagea,l and gastric cancers.  

Now, a few words about the drawbacks of a raw food plan.  This is not an easy program for many people to follow.  It does take a lot of time, energy, and commitment in terms of having to prepare many of the foods.  Depending on where participants live, some allowed ingredients might be difficult to find and seasonality of fresh produce may also impact diet variety.  Cost may also be prohibitive for some participants as organic and fresh foods tend to be more expensive.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) has also challenged the program’s assertion that cooking foods above 116-118 degrees Fahrenheit kills enzymes.  The organization insists that the body, not what goes into it, is what produces the enzymes necessary for digestion.  Furthermore, by not cooking food above the 118 degrees Fahrenheit mark, participants may potentially open themselves up to harmful, food-borne bacteria found on some foods.

Mild headaches, digestive problems, dizziness, nausea, and food cravings often occur and sometimes last for several days if not weeks.  Additionally, for individuals coming off a richer diet, a detox reaction when first starting the program may prove severe.  The raw food diet is not appropriate for all people.  Children, pregnant and nursing women, people with anemia, and people at risk for osteoporosis are also discouraged for undertaking the plan. 

Certain nutritional deficiencies are likely to occur on a diet that is predominately comprised of raw, unprocessed foods.  Participants often struggle with calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and D, and protein deficiencies when staying on the diet for an extended period.   

One Washington University study also found that participants following a raw food diet were prone to lower bone mass.  However, a more positive finding that overall bone quality was good was promising.  

The verdict is mixed on whether the raw diet is truly a healthy long-term approach to a healthier lifestyle. It truly depends on whom you talk to! Advocates are passionate and committed to the approach, while some experts advise caution in staying on such a program long-term.

While there is strong evidence to suggest it has some very significant and notable health benefits, the practicality and feasibility of being able to sustain such a diet are questionable.  No doubt, a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits will prove beneficial, but given the deficiency in protein and other essential vitamins and nutrients associated with this approach, it may not provide participants with the best-balanced approach to weight loss.   

Summer Vacation Challenges

While summer vacations present a wonderful opportunity to soak in the sun and enjoy outdoor activities, it also brings various temptations that pile on calories. This could pose a problem if you are trying to maintain or reduce weight. Here are some vital diet tips to help you maintain your weight. 

If you have planned a summer vacation, then you need to plan your calorie intake from the moment you step out of your house. If you have planned to take your car, then you could pack in some light salads, sandwiches made with whole wheat bread, low-calorie cereal bars, and some unsweetened iced tea or green tea. This will ensure that you do not pig out on burgers and fries as you road trip to your destination. 

If you are traveling by air, then the temptations are even greater, since in-flight food, alcoholic drinks, and even fruit juices are high in calories.  Pack your own healthy snacks, or if a meal plan is offered, consider the vegetarian options. Avoid alcohol, since it adds empty calories, and often increases the recovery period from jet lag.  Drink plenty of water, and a small glass of canned juice, instead of fizzy drinks with no nutritional value. 

The situation gets even worse, when you reach your hotel, with scrumptious breakfasts, unlimited buffet lunches, dinners, and a mouth-watering variety of desserts at every meal. While you may enjoy the delicacies spread out before you, try to pick out a lot of salads, grilled vegetables, and rice or whole wheat bread into your lunch and dinner schedules, and limit the amount of red meat or desserts on offer. Avoid salads dripping with mayonnaise-based dressings.  If you stay near the sea, then your hotel should have a wide variety of fish, crabs, and lobsters on their menu, try them out, especially when not deep-fried or wrapped in the batter. 

Include fruits, cereal, yogurt, whole grain bread, and bagels for breakfast, instead of omelets, bacon, or ham. For desserts, stick to fresh fruits with a little sherbet or sorbet instead of gorging on hip-exploding cheesecake and ice cream. 

If you want to indulge in a few alcoholic drinks, stick to small quantities of beer or wine, instead of calorie-rich cocktails. In addition to adding calories, alcoholic drinks dehydrate the body and cause a hangover that could ruin your holiday.     

Even if you do tuck into a few vacation delicacies, your hotel should offer you a variety of ways to burn off the fat. Go swimming, hit the gym, or at least engage in regular long walks. If your resort is on the beach, then you can go snorkeling, kayaking, or even hire a pedal boat. 

As you enjoy your summer holidays, you can still ensure that you enjoy your various meals, while maintaining a low-calorie count. Even if you gulp down the odd high-calorie delicacy, you can still burn it off in a fun way through the physical activity on tap. 

Maintaining a Healthy Summer Eating Plan 

It is a myth that healthy eating means depriving yourself of your favorite foods. Excess is what’s bad, and any food eaten in moderate amounts is healthy. By maintaining a healthy, balanced summer diet, you can stay fresh and energetic all day long. If you learn to eat more nutritional and well-balanced foods, you will definitely reap the health benefits year-round!

Increasing Physical Activity Levels

Becoming more physically active forms an integral part of any healthy lifestyle, as it helps you to burn more calories.  Taking a walk or a hike, jogging, swimming, or working out at the gym are just a few ways you can start to burn calories.  As little as 20 minutes a day of regular physical activity can go a long way in burning those excess calories.   

If you are just starting out and the idea of exercise makes you cringe, start out small.  Commit to taking a walk around your neighborhood in the evenings or maybe grab a small group of friends and try a beginning yoga or Zumba class.  

Exercising and spending more time on outdoor activities always seem easier in the summer because of the wonderful weather. Going for bike rides with the kids walks with your significant other, or hiking or rock climbing with friends can be both fun and rewarding in terms of fat-burning. A game of baseball, soccer, softball, swimming, or water aerobics can offer loads of fun.

For even greater results, you can incorporate a circuit training exercise routine as part of your fitness routine.  As little as 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week can yield amazing results and keep you fit and trim throughout the summer.  Here’s how.

Keep it Short with Circuit Training

What’s the best method of exercising?  McMaster University published a study in the Journal of Physiology that looked at the different methods of exercising and concluded that high-intensity training was much better than long, steady workouts that feel like they go on forever. Researchers found that one-minute intense exercise, followed by a one-minute recovery interval session yielded the best results for fitness and weight loss.  That means that an actual 20-minute exercise session included 10 minutes of high-intensity training and 10 minutes of rest.  Doesn’t that sound doable?  

Now here’s the best part.  It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you perform, you just need to do it intensely for one minute and then rest for one minute.  It could be running, cycling, rowing, or cross-training.  This method works for all types of exercise and is especially well suited for the circuit training approach to exercise.

Circuit training has long been used as an effective way to develop strength and cardiovascular fitness at the same time.  It improves mobility, strength, and stamina.  Circuit training doesn’t refer to a specific form of exercise, but instead to how an exercise session is structured.  Typically, one circuit session consists of a series of strength exercises (usually 6 to 10) that are performed one after another, with brief periods of rest in between.   

The total number of circuit sessions typically varies based on your training level, i.e. beginner, intermediate or advanced.

What are Strength-Training Exercises?

Strength training, also known as resistance training, refers to any type of exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an eternal resistance such as dumbbells, rubber exercise tubing, or even your own body weight.  In short, any type of object that is going to cause your muscles to contract.  Strength training offers several benefits.  It can help you maintain muscle when restricting calories, allow you to burn more calories after a workout and while at rest, and improve your heart health.   Examples of resistance training you may want to consider include:

  • Using dumbbells or free weights to build muscle
  • Incorporating an elastic exercise band in your workout
  • Using an exercise ball when exercising your abs
  • Water aerobics

Here is a selection of strength training exercises you may want to try.  These are just a handful of the possibilities available.  In addition to showing you a few that require no special equipment, I’ve also included a few that use weights, bands, and exercise balls.

Twisting crunches – Start by lying on your back with your knees at a ninety-degree angle and your hands by your side, or behind your head for support. Slowly lift your torso in a diagonal fashion (bring a shoulder towards the opposite knee). Keep your head and spine straightly aligned. Slowly return to the starting position without releasing tension on your abdominals. Repeat lying on your other side.

Bridge – Start with your body raised off the ground clenching your abdominals. Hold your body in this position for 30-60 seconds. 

Pelvic Thrust – Start by lying down on a mat and raising your legs to a 90-degree angle. With your arms at your side, raise your pelvis up while trying to keep your legs perfectly vertical. 

Jack Knives – Lie on the ground (beginner) or a bench (advanced) with your lower body not on the bench. Complete a crunch and bring your knees and shoulders together. This exercise can be performed with your knees bent or kept straight.

Air Bike – Start with your back flat on the ground. Raise your opposite arm and leg together. Repeat side to side until a complete set is finished.

Wall Push-Up – This exercise is great for people who are not able to do a regular push-up. To begin, start in a standing position, and then lean against a wall with your hands out. With your hands at shoulder length apart, press your body back to the starting position. To make it harder on yourself find something that is lower like a desk, then a bench, and finally the ground.

Chin-Ups – Hold the chin-up bar with palms facing forward with a wide grip. Hang from the bar. You may have to bend your knees to do so. Pull your body up until your neck meets the bar and then slowly release and return to the starting position.

Exercise Ball/Medicine Ball Throw – Start by lying supine on a ball with a medicine ball over the top of your head (holding with two hands). Complete a crunch and start throwing the ball ahead of you as you come up to the top. 

Standing Row (Elastic Band) – Start by standing up straight and have the middle of the band tied to the doorknob so you can still grab both ends. With your hands grabbing both ends, extend fully while keeping tension on the band. Slowly bring the band in tight to your body contracting your shoulder blades. Return to the starting position. 

Bicep Curls (Elastic Band) – Start by standing or sitting.  With the band underneath your feet, and your feet and shoulders relaxed, raise the band using your biceps until you have completed a curl. Return to the starting position.

Close Grip Pulldown – Using a narrow grip handle, put your knees underneath the pad, and lean back slightly. Pull the handle down smoothly until it touches the top of your chest. Extend your arms back to the top.

Squats – Hold a barbell with an overhand grip so that it rests comfortably on your upper back. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, and keep your knees slightly bent, back straight, and eyes focused straight ahead. Slowly lower your body as if you were sitting back into a chair, keeping your back in its natural alignment and your lower legs nearly perpendicular to the floor. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause, then return to the starting position.

Bench Press – Lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet on the floor. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, your hands just beyond shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar off the uprights, and hold it at arm’s length over your chest. Slowly lower the bar to your chest. Pause, and then push the bar back to the starting position.

Lying Cable Curls – Start by lying on a bench with your arms straight up holding a straight bar attached to a cable. With your back flat on the bench, lower the weight using your biceps keeping your elbows stationary.

Putting Together Your Workout

To create your own circuit training session, grab a pen and paper.  You will start by identifying 3 or 4 circuits of 6 to 8 exercises that you want to perform.  You can start with the list of exercises listed above.  As you’re picking your exercises, make sure that no two consecutive exercises work for the same muscle group.  For example, you don’t want to schedule a press-up right after a pull-up because you are working for the same muscle group.  You want to work as many body parts as possible with each circuit.

After you’ve selected your exercises, you’ll want to include a warm-up session before you begin and a cool-down session at the end of each workout.

Why Warm Up?

A common mistake among people who are new to physical fitness is to skip the warm-up.  This is a big mistake because a proper warm-up can help you reduce the risk of injury and can help to prepare your body and mind for the more strenuous workout to come.  An added bonus is that you will burn more calories.

When you are performing a warm-up, it is best to start with the easiest and gentlest exercises first, and then build on them.  Don’t think that a few simple stretches do a warm-up make.  Your body needs more than that to function at its peak.  Devote at least ten minutes to doing static stretches and some type of light aerobic exercises before kicking off a more intensive workout.  

Circuit Training Session Examples

Below are a few examples of circuit training sessions that include 6 to 8 exercises.  Each exercise should be done for 20 to 30 seconds with a 30-second recovery between each one.  Do 3 to 5 sets with a 3-minute recovery between each set.

Six Exercise Sessions   

    Example 1

  • Treadmill
  • Press Ups
  • Squat Jumps
  • Sit Ups 
  • Squat Thrusts
  • Bench Dips

Example 2

  • Traditional Crunches
  • Bent-Leg Knee Raise
  • Bridge
  • Squats
  • Triceps Pushdown
  • Leg Curls

Eight Exercise Sessions

    Example 1

  • Treadmill
  • Press Ups
  • Squat Jumps
  • Sit Ups 
  • Squat Thrusts
  • Bench Dips
  • Shuttle Runs
  • Back extension chest raise

Example 2

  • Traditional Crunches
  • Bent-Leg Knee Raise
  • Bridge
  • Squats
  • Triceps Pushdown
  • Leg Curls
  • Back extension chest raise
  • Bench Dips


A light and healthy approach to meals combined with regular physical activity will not only have your swimsuit ready in no time, but it will ensure that you maintain that sleek and toned physique throughout the summer.  

By developing and sticking to a challenging but attainable goal, and creating a plan that addresses both healthy eating and your fitness level you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results you’ll see and feel.  In no time at all, you’ll be out there, enjoying the dog days of summer!  

Yogurt: The Other Dairy Product

Yogurt is usually on most lists of healthy foods, and for good reason.  Yogurt is a great low-fat food packed with tons of calcium (45% in one serving), protein, and other vital nutrients like potassium, iodine, and Vitamin B.  Eating yogurt daily provides you with a ton of health benefits.  Yogurt can:

  • support your immune system,
  • lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, 
  • build strong bones, 
  • promote intestinal and vaginal health,
  • enhance your immune system,
  • lower blood pressure,
  • reduce inflammation, and
  • help you lose weight.

Yes, that’s right.  Yogurt can help you lose weight.  Amazing, right?  This calcium-rich food has been the subject of several research studies that looked at how effective it was at burning fat and promoting weight loss.  One study conducted by the University of Tennessee and published in 2005 was especially promising.  It found those dieters who ate three servings of yogurt a day, lost 22 percent more weight and 61 percent more body fat than those individuals who just cut calories and didn’t add any calcium to their eating regimen.  

Low-fat yogurt can provide you with just the right balance of fat and essential nutrients.  Besides eating it straight out of the container, it can be used in a variety of other ways.  For example, you can combine it with fresh fruit or whole-grain granola for a healthy breakfast or snack.  You can also substitute low-fat yogurt for mayo in many recipes.  It can serve as a base for salad dressing, and probably one of my favorites, using it to make fresh fruit smoothies.

Another great yogurt variety is Greek yogurt.  Greek yogurt has attracted a loyal following in recent years.  People loving a thicker and creamier yogurt have embraced Greek yogurt.  Fat-free varieties of this yogurt are said to be richer in taste, so you sacrifice none of the taste when you go fat-free.  Greek yogurt also has a higher protein content than regular yogurt.  On average, a standard 6-ounce serving of fat-free yogurt has roughly 9 grams of protein.  Fat-free Greek yogurt has between 16 and 18 grams.  

If you are interested in incorporating yogurt into your diet, there are a few things to consider when selecting a variety, especially if you are hoping to lose weight.  Check the label out thoroughly, particularly the fat content and fillers or “extras” used.  The calories and fat can add up quickly so be diligent.

Based on a 6-ounce single size serving, you want to look for a yogurt that has:

  • Less than 120 calories,
  • Less than 4 grams of fat,
  • Less than 30 grams of sugar,
  • At least 6 grams of protein,
  • At least 20 percent of your daily value of calcium, and
  • At least 10 percent of your daily value of calcium.

Yogurt is a good food to add to your diet, regardless if you are trying to lose weight or not.  The health benefits packed into a single serving, and its versatility should definitely earn it a special place in your refrigerator.

The End of the Natural Food Evolution

Genetically modified (GM) foods have been around for some time now.  The first GM foods to hit the market were modified plant products like soybeans and corn.  GM modified animal products have also been developed, but to my knowledge, there aren’t any on the market at this time.  The introduction of GM foods to the market has not been without controversy.  Economic, ecological, and healthy safety issues have been repeatedly raised.  Many of these concerns are legitimate and bear discussion, including the issue of health safety, which is a hotly debated topic right now. Considering we largely lack the modern science necessary to truly comprehend what the ramifications of using genetically manipulated food will be, the likelihood of this topic being settled anytime soon is slim.

With this is mind, it doesn’t seem so farfetched to speculate that these GM product could lead some individuals to develop food sensitivities, or that new allergens or bacteria could be introduced into our foods when you consider you’re fusing genes from different species together.  It is after all a real possibility, but the science and the in-depth studies needed to either confirm or deny these issues just isn’t there.  Also, think about this.  With five international agricultural companies, controlling 85 percent of all the food that is coming to our table, how likely is it that we will ever get fair and unbiased information to make those decisions?

Completely avoiding GM food products is difficult to do, as they are so prevalent.  Nearly 93 percent of all soybean and 86 percent of all corn crops planted in the U.S. are from GM modified seeds.  Have you looked at the ingredients listed in your favorite processed foods lately?  I’m sure you’ve noticed how many use corn and soybeans.  That’s not even considering produce like Hawaiian papaya (80% GM), rapeseed/canola (93%), squash (13%), and now rice (% unknown until 2012), or other products that have failed, pulled from the market because the public either didn’t accept them or court-ordered injunctions are currently in place to stop planting plans.  

Unlike European Union countries, Japan and Australia, the U.S. does not require food companies to identify which ingredients of a product have been genetically modified.  That means as a consumer, you have no clear idea if you are eating a food with GM components and to what extent.  Without this information, how are you to make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to eat it or not?

Think about this too.  In the U.S., the FDA can only review food safety data that has been developed and given to them voluntarily by the developers of GM foods.   The FDA doesn’t have any requirements or specific food tests they carry out to determine if those foods are safe to eat.  In short, the FDA pretty much depends on the GM developer to tell them that the food is safe.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees something wrong with this picture!

Supporters of GM foods will probably argue that GM foods have been eaten by millions of people worldwide for the last 15 years without any reports of ill effects.  That would be reassuring if there had actually been studies undertaken to determine whether engineered crops have caused any harm to the general public, but there hasn’t.  Furthermore, if these GM products are so safe, why have they been banned in several countries?

When you start meddling in the natural evolution of something, especially something like food, there are bound to be repercussions.  To assume there isn’t, particularly when there are no studies to support or deny these claims, is a bit arrogant on the part of the GM developers and shortsighted on our end as consumers.

As always, we need to remain as diligent as possible about the foods we eat.  While avoiding all GM foods may be impossible, here are a few things that may help you to make better food choices and reduce your GM intake:

  • Buy foods that are labeled “100% organic” – foods can’t get this label unless they are completely free of GM ingredients.  Don’t just buy foods that say “organic” because under currently government labeling, “organic” foods can still include up to 30 percent GMs.
  • Review the label numbers on fruits and vegetables – Price Labeling Lookup (PLU) is a voluntary program and not all producers participate, but it can sometimes provide guidance on GM foods.  A PLU number that adds an “8” in front of the regular four-digit PLU code means the product is genetically modified.  If it has a “9” as a leading number, it’s organic.  A PLU containing only 4 digits means it is conventionally produced.   Here are a couple of examples of what a PLU number looks like:
  • Purchase 100% grass-fed beef – if you are a carnivore who loves beef, you want to look for beef that is 100 percent grass- or pasture-fed.  Otherwise, chances are good that the animal ingested GM corn and alfalfa before coming to market, which means you’ll be exposed to it as well.
  • Stick to whole foods whenever possible – I know it’s not always easy, but whenever you can, try to stick to foods that you have to prepare and cook yourself, rather than processed or prepared foods.  This way, you’ll have a better idea of exactly what you are eating. 
  • Buy local or start your own vegetable and fruit garden – local farmers markets and coops tend to grow produce organically.  Moreover, what better way to ensure that your fruits and vegetables are organic than to grow it yourself?