Reading List: Debate Over Exercise, Tomato Blight & Banning Drive-Thrus

In this week’s nutrition headlines: Northeastern tomato crops wiped out by blight, Smart Choice logo debut, and 4 lifestyle changes that lower your risk of disease.
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From this week's nutrition headlines: Tomato crops wiped out by blight, a new Smart Choice logo debuts and more proof that basic healthy lifestyle choices reduce your risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Real Sad Tomatoes

This New York Times op-ed by Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of the Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurants is a must-read for any tomato-lover, home gardener or grow-your-own advocate. When I took my canning workshop earlier this month, the instructor explained how Stone Barns had lost its tomato crop to blight (a fungus that attacks tomatoes and potatoes). Usually this isn’t an issue for farmers since blight hits late in the season, after harvesting. This year, thanks to a lot of rain and large chain stores selling infected plants to aspiring home gardeners, the northeast got hit with blight early. What are we to do? Well, it's too late for this year's crops, but next year, to keep any blight contained, be sure to buy starter plants from a local grower or nursery; they monitor their plants more closely and will pull out infected plants.

Is Exercise Really Important?

The short answer: yes! But if you think you’re burning thousands of calories by going to the gym for an hour, no dice. I was shocked by the title of this Time Magazine article ("Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin") and immediately bought a copy. The author makes some excellent points -- one goodie: you need to get off your behind and move! Not necessarily by grunting for an hour at the gym, but by walking, going dancing (sans the alcohol), gardening or walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator. Many of my clients tell me they really lose weight when they visit their families in the Dominican Republic. Why? Because they need to walk to get anywhere and the electricity doesn’t always work (less TV and video game time!). Another good point in this article: once you’re done moving or exercising, don’t reward yourself with an ice cream sundae, donut or even a muffin. Even if the exercise makes you hungry, overdoing it afterward defeats the purpose.

Possible Ban on Drive-Thrus

Cities in states like Colorado are trying to close down drive-thrus. No, not because of the high-calorie foods often on their menus, but as a way to decrease greenhouse gas emission from the cars waiting to be served. Instead of parking and walking inside, folks prefer to stay put in their car for 5 to 12 minutes. The author of this article proposes a slight tax on orders from drive-thrus. The money would be donated to help develop new eco-friendly technologies.

Smart-Choice Logo’s Debut

Big food companies such as Coca-Cola and General Mills have banded together to create and adopt the Smart Choice logo, which starts showing up on product labels this week. The big green check mark is meant to help you easily identify healthier foods without having to read the full label. About 500 products have qualified for the mark so far, based on criteria set up using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Anyone seen the labels yet? I just went to the market today and didn’t come across any.

4 Ways to Prevent the “Big 3” Diseases
A study featured in August's Archives of Internal Medicine showed that German patients who adopted or met 4 specific lifestyle choices had a 78% reduced risk to develop the top 3 major illnesses: cancer, heart disease and diabetes. So what are these healthy lifestyle changes? Having a BMI (body mass index) of less than 30, never smoking, being physically active and eating a healthy diet. This is all commonsense, right? Study after study is concluding the same thing. Doesn’t that tell you something?
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