Friday, August 31, 2007

Spending Money on Activia® or DanActive™? Try Kefir!!

By Marcie Barnes

There 's something called Kefir which has been around for thousands of years and it offers the same (if not more) benefits as the new products on the market such as Activia® or DanActive™.

What annoys me about Dannon's advertising campaigns are claims such as: "Specialists at Dannon® selected Bifidus Regularis™ for Activia® because it survives passage through the digestive tract, arriving in the colon as a living culture." - Well, they didn't exactly select it, they trademarked the words so they could be the "only people in the world" using it. Bifidus Regularis was trademarked in the US by Compagnie Gervais Danone - which seems to be the parent company of Dannon in Europe.

Another Dannon product, DanActives Immunity, claims "The probiotic culture L. casei Immunitas™ is, in comparison to other yogurt cultures, more resistant to the stomach acid and is therefore getting in a high concentration in the intestine, where about 70% of the body's immune cells are located. Once there, DanActive with L. casei Immunitas™ can help strengthen our body’s defenses." Same thing - another trademarked term, and all you are probably getting is a well-known strain of Lactobacillius Casei.

So, what do you get when you drink kefir? Here is the list of probiotic strains contained in each bottle:

Lactobacillius Lactis
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus
• Streptococcus Diacetylactis
Lactobacillus Plantarum
Lactobacillius Casei
Saccharomyces Florentinus
Leuconostoc Cremoris
Bifidobacterium Longum
Bifidobacterium Breve
Lactobacillus Acidophilus

See the chart to compare nutritional information and price. As you can see you get a lot more bang for your buck with kefir. There are sweetened/flavored varieties available which would have more sugar, but Dannon does not give a lower-sugar alternative like kefir does. Two cons to kefir: it's not readily available in major groceries (but is carried at WholeFoods and the like, of course) and the consistency may take some getting used to - it's basically a cross between milk and yogurt in thickness. Try it!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Anti-Aging Diet? Disease-Prevention Diet? A very useful tool.

By Marcie Barnes

Today I discovered a nice little tool brought to you by the folks at iVillage called "Best Foods for Your Diet". I really like this tool because it explains what foods pack the most nutritional punch per calorie, and not just in terms of vitamins and minerals. In the future, I think nutrition labels will be showcasing things like choline, omega 3s, and phenols, which are discussed here. The tool is organized into the following "diets":

• Anti-Aging
• Athletic-Endurance
• Disease-Prevention
• Low-Calorie
• Low-Carb
• Low-Fat
• Low-Sugar
• Raw-Food
• Vegetarian

Be careful with a low-fat diet, and a no-fat diet is dangerous. Your body needs
good fats for many of its essential processes. I think the low-sugar approach is the best for losing weight, and any "diet" should incorporate lots of fresh, as-raw-as-possible vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and whole grains.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Packing Healthy Lunches For Kids

By Marcie Barnes

I was pleasantly surprised today to see
this article from a Rochester, MN's newspaper with some great tips on packing healthy lunches. Here are some of the highlights:

Don't focus on packing a "meat" sandwich. (Avoid processed lunch meats.) - The article suggests vegetables, tofu, cheeses, and beans as substitutes. Some ideas that came to mind here were a hummus wrap with veggies, nut butter and fruit on whole wheat bread, A southwestern style wrap with refried beans, salsa & lettuce (or this
unique recipe), or a "grilled" cheese that incorporates tofu. (In a lunchbox I would toast the bread with cheese and tofu open-faced so it has a chance of staying crisp till lunch).

• Some of the best foods for a child are the most portable. This section talks about nuts. Unfortunately, my son's school does not allow nuts of any kind, and I am sure that is the case in a lot of places. I try to find snacks such as soy chips and
spirulina cookies instead, and from time to time I give him almond milk to give him the healthy nut benefits.

• Eliminate sugary snacks and processed foods. - Hallelujah! The article suggests: fruit with peanut butter, vegetables with a low-fat dip, high-fiber cereals and low-fat cheeses. I'm not a big fan of low-fat for kids, as long as they are good fats. It's funny, pediatricians recommend whole milk for two years because it is needed for brain development,
among other things - well, don't they still need fat for cell & brain development after two? This article says yes. I'm on the fence as to whether animal fats (specifically dairy) are in the "good" category - so I limit them, and supplement with fish oils.

• Make sure to pack foods that are rich in nutrients and offer a number of health benefits. This section is a little vague, but the sentiment is important. When I hear "rich in nutrients" I think - as fresh as possible and as raw as possible. I know "raw" and kids don't always go together, but make sure your child doesn't keep eating baby food all their life either. Some great raw foods for kids include: salsa, hummus, cole slaw (easy on the sugar!), cucumbers, celery, fresh fruit, and yogurt. Try to steam veggies as lightly as possible. One of my favorite things to do is make a "crunchy" veggie chili consisting of three-bean chili mix, onions, red and green bell peppers (lightly cooked) and sprouted beans tossed in at the end so they stay crunchy.

More great resources for healthy lunchboxes:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What You Didn't Know About Antibacterial Soap

By Marcie Barnes

Did you know that the American Medical Association is urging you (and the FDA) not to use antibacterial soaps/products (and has been for years)? It's true, many studies show that these popular soaps are no better at killing germs than regular soap, and there is concern that the chemical - triclosan - one of the most common active ingredients in antibacterial products - presents a serious threat to public health and the environment by creating super-germs. In addition, A 2002 Swedish study found high levels of triclosan in 3 out of 5 human breast milk samples, it is being detected in our streams and rivers (and blatantly used in daycares and schools), and there is evidence that triclosan itself is a toxin that may cause cancer.

I'm not a big fan of frequent hand washing anyway (I hear the collective gasp!) - I think we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater on this one - killing all the germs - most of them which are good for us, in order to reduce the risk of contact with a few bad ones. Don't get me wrong, I wash my hands after I visit the bathroom and I am most obsessive about it when dealing with food preparation, because there is a great risk in food-borne illnesses.

What can you do? Check the ingredients of your household products (there is a list in this article) and stick to safer, more traditional means of cleaning yourself and your surroundings.

Why are these products still on the shelves? My guess: money. The manufacturers can make marketing claims by differentiating their products as "antibacterial" - and you buy them. The FDA has made no moves to ban this ingredient, I would guess, because they are a government agency, and they are influenced by the manufacturers, and their lobbyists.

Need more convincing? Just do a Google for triclosan, and see for yourself!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

About This Blog

This blog was created as part of an assignment in my first class: The Global Impact of New Communication Technologies. Below is my preamble, which in part explains my motivation for creating this blog (at the bottom in bold):

When asked to explain how weblogs and personal publishing are transforming global communication I am reminded of a time in my childhood when personal computers were first introduced in the 80s. My mother was a professional typesetter with her own business, working on very expensive equipment she had to finance (or more appropriately, mortgage) through the local bank. She recognized the personal computer was about to transform the state of publishing and was smart enough to sell her business, equipment and debt included, before the equipment (and she) became obsolete.

This experience is not lost on me as an analogy for the impact of weblogs and personal publishing is having on our lives today. Now, anyone with internet access can easily (and at no cost) set up a blog and publish their ideas, thoughts, or dreams. I personally don’t want to see publishing go entirely electronic, and I don’t think it will, since there are still valid uses for print (Barnes and Noble is doing quite well, just for one example.) However, I feel the traditional print industry, if it is unwilling to embrace this dramatic change in how people communicate, can only make itself obsolete by ignoring this revolution in communication.

The possible socio-economic implication of blogs and bloggers is what I believe will impact the way society communicates and publishes. It is the ‘viral’ effects in the structure of blogs that give them the power to transform global communication. The most popular posts (and blogs) float to the top of searches, are passed amongst friends and co-workers, and become the most visible, most read, and possibly most trusted. In the past, people turned to television or newspapers for their primary source of the news. These advertisers powered the media content because their money (especially when talking about network TV) made available the program itself. This traditional communication structure easily allows an advertiser or sponsor to influence what kind of news is broadcast/published. Personal blogs are not yet beholden to any advertiser or sponsor who could affect their content. Also, video outlets such as youtube enable the ‘reader’ to have the television experience without the television, and contribute to the viral quality of the new media.

The ‘viral’ effect of blogs could also be seen in an organized movement by bloggers. This will be seen for the first time on a large scale on October 15 when Blog Action Day ( arrives. On this day, many of the major blogs alongside hundreds (if not thousands) of small ones will commit to posting about environmental issues, and are urged to donate the day’s proceeds to an environmental cause. I think this will be huge. It takes a bunch of small (and large) ripples in a pond to create a tidal wave, and our environment sure needs it. Perhaps more compelling, though, will be the measurement of the effort, and where it could be applied elsewhere to aid in charitable efforts.

My blog is somewhat of a soapbox approach. After 10+ years in working in some sort of marketing role for several companies it has become abundantly clear to me how many people “believe what they see on TV”. My blog will be used to create posts that are informative, backed up by links to credible pages to bolster my opinions. I hope to help people make informative choices on everyday issues (mostly what they put in/on their body). I want to part of affecting change. And I now have the perfect platform and resources to do so.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

About Me

Welcome! I am Marcie Barnes, married working mother of a beautiful two-year old boy. I don't like to define myself solely by my work, but for the record, I am a web/graphic designer for a software company as well as co-owner of a small advertising agency in the Triangle area of North Carolina. In addition, I am taking the first steps in my graduate education in the school of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Which leads me to... About This Blog