Column: Health Awareness Initiative

Angelika Schwamberger is a full-time SAGE instructor and writes a monthly Health Newsletter for the CNM Community. Excerpts from this newsletter will be reprinted monthly.

Water: Remember the 8 x 8 rule. Drink about eight 8 ounce glasses of water or fluid a day is a popular rule of thumb. Water is, of course, preferable since it has 0 calories, aids the body in elimination of toxins, and hydrates tissues, such as the skin and disks between your vertebrae. As we age, our thirst response is less accurate than when we were younger, so it is important to drink plenty of fluids even though we may not feel thirsty, for instance in cold weather. Coffee and alco­holic beverages are generally dehydrating and sodas contain phosphates that deplete the body of calcium, which is an issue for women. Furthermore, they contain sugar, which adds unnecessary calories to your daily caloric intake.

Storage Containers: Store your water in containers that do not contain bisphenol A, found in #7 plastics. Better yet, use glass bottles; even though they are heavier and fragile, they are a better choice. Some animal studies suggest that infants and children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA contained in plastics #7. According to, to reduce exposure to BPA:

• Do not microwave poly­carbonate plastic food contain­ers. The plastic may break down if repeatedly exposed to high temperatures.

• Reduce your use of canned foods and donate freeze dried/ bagged foods instead of canned foods.

• When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, especially for hot food or liquids.

• Use water bottles that are labeled “BPA free.”

Conserving Water: Many of us try to conserve water in this time of drought here in New Mexico. We install dry landscapes in our front yard or back yard and cut down our water use in the house while showering and brushing our teeth. However, the best way to conserve water, according to John Robbins, the author of “The Food Revolution” (2001) is simply not to eat beef. It takes more water to produce 1 pound of beef (5,214 gallons) than it does to shower 365 days of the year for 7 minutes (5,200 gal­lons). Of course, there are many other reasons for limiting or eliminating the consumption of grain-fed beef.

Fruits and Vegetables: Five Alive. Try to eat five serv­ings of vegetables every day. Vegetables are preferable to fruit because they have less fructose (sugar) and just as many vita­mins and minerals. Try replac­ing cookies or candy bars with a piece of fruit or, better yet, a vegetable to improve your health. Avoid bottled juices as they contain sugar or salt but no fiber. Refined sugar has been implicated in a variety of health problems, such as inflammation, yeast overgrowth, weight gain, and many more.

Stickers on Fruit and Vegetables: Pay attention to the stickers on fruits and veg­etables. Each number stands for something said Rose Marie Williams in “Food labels: what do the numbers mean?”

Conventional produce, grown on farms that use syn­thetic chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers carry a four-digit sticker beginning with the numeral “4.” A conventionally grown banana, for example, would have a sticker that reads “4011.” Many of the herbicides and fungicides that are illegal to use in the US are still pro­duced here and sold to other countries where laws are less strict. The US then re-imports their produce, which is then sold at your local supermarket.

Organic produce: Grown according to standards that use more natural pest controls and fertilizers that nourish the soil, will have five-digit labels beginning with the numeral “9.” Bananas grown organically will carry labels that read “94011.” Needless to say, organic produce is the best, but most expensive choice, but by supporting this type of agricul­ture, we will eventually be able to lower the prices of this type of produce over time.

Genetically Engineered (GE) produce would be iden­tified with a five-digit PLU sticker beginning with the numeral “8.” A genetically engineered banana would have a label that reads “84011.” Because of its deleterious effect on the environment and its unknown effect on your health, avoid genetically engineered “frankenfoods.” Most produce that is genetically engineered includes soybeans and corn.

All combinations of the four-digit code beginning with the numeral “4” have been used up, so new labels beginning with the numeral “3,” will also be used to designate conventionally raised produce.

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