Nov 12, 2010 |

Food for Thought

By Astrid Webster

Just when I was beginning to wonder if it was safe to eat anything, I got a crash course from a fellow participant in Saturday morning qi gong in the park. After exchanging a few words of greeting as practice ended, she invited me to walk with her. As our conversation drifted, I mentioned my concern about several friends who had cancer. My new friend responded that she is a cancer researcher and we discussed the food-cancer connection. The next time we walked, she invited me to watch a video at her home. It showed how to make a museli devised by Dr. Johanna Budwig for the purpose of overcoming cancer and other illness as well as nutritional support for athletes.

The recipe seemed easy enough, having only three ingredients in addition to berries, that I tried it the very next morning. I’ve met very few foods I didn’t like but this one had a particular appeal for me. Made simply of low fat, organic cottage cheese, cold pressed, unfiltered organic flax seed oil and organic, freshly ground flax seeds, consumed immediately after it is made so it doesn’t go rancid, this food was at once tasty and felt so immediately right that I have eaten it daily for nearly two months.

The advantage of this recipe, writes Dr. Budwig, that I have since learned is the world’s top alternative treatment for cancer, is that it makes normally difficult to digest flax seed oil water soluble and therefore highly digestible. The cottage cheese in this combination is a complete protein, resulting in an easy to make breakfast that helps break down the fats that our body cannot metabolize, which contribute to obesity and diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. For those who would rather not eat meat, it is an ideal way to get the fat and protein on which health depend. An added bonus is that the highly usable omega 3 fatty acid is a great mood stabilizer, helping reduce depressive and bipolar tendencies. I find it somehow seems to help make the sometimes overwhelming news seem less daunting. Directions for making Dr. Johanna Budwig's museli can be seen at

Since embarking on the quest for a suitable diet for the environmentally conscious, I’ve been impressed at the quality of research that is available from Michael Pollan, Toby Hemmenway, Slow Food and Slow Money. Though I’ve grown accustomed to valuing Dirt (the real stuff and the movie), I almost skipped over an email entitled Soil from carbon farmer Abe Collins. As we lunched on the final day of last Fall’s Slow Money Gathering, Abe said that the perfect conditions for rehabilitating land and creating topsoil included large hoofed animals chased by predators or otherwise caused to graze while moving from pasture to pasture. While wandering across his web page, I came across a familiar name and face, that of Alan Savory of Holistic Management.

Savory moved to Albuquerque after having been barred from his native Zimbabwe as well as other parts of Africa due to his teachings about constructive ways of managing land, animals and the unorthodox (yet true) understanding about their interdependence. Collins has added a video by Savory to the bottom of his web page which is must viewing for anyone who wants to eat responsibly.

We’ve long been warned about responsible drinking, driving, gambling and sex but our lives have become far more complicated than we had been led to believe. We’ve become party to an unrelenting seduction to work, shop, eat, relax and even play in ways that are a vast chemical and technological experiment, putting our lives and the life of this planet in the balance. Though we might be surprised that we take our lives into our hands every time we nibbled some delicious looking food, we can take heart in Savory’s words that true science is not what is so rapidly proliferating in response to corporate spending but emerges from an effort to learn from and imitate nature. By doing some research that is readily available on line, we can find ways of maintaining ourselves that benefit the plant and animal life with whom we share this beautiful place. We can simultaneously heal ourselves as we breathe life back into the ecosystem that has been so generously caring for us.

As I write this, I mourn the passing of a true friend, a friend of the Earth, fellow bicyclist, environmentalist and organizer whom few have equaled and none surpassed. Gail Ryba touched my heart and so many others. You can learn more about her by visiting the scrapbook created by her friends and family at!/group.php?gid=121546064523517


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How Lead Gets Into

Urban Vegetable Gardens

ScienceDaily (Nov. 3, 2010) — If you're a vegetable gardener in a lot of older cities, there's a fair chance you have a significant amount of lead in your soil. One common mitigation approach is to build a raised bed and fill it with freshly composted, low-lead soil from elsewhere, right? Maybe not, according to researchers studying the mysterious case of the lead contamination found within raised beds in community gardens in the Boston communities of Roxbury and Dorchester.

"Raised beds are surrounded by a sea of contaminated soil," said Daniel Brabander of Wellesley College. Brabander, his students and colleagues have been studying the lead in 144 backyard gardens in coordination with The Food Project, an organization committed to food security, nutrition and sustainable urban agriculture. Eighty-one percent of the gardens they studied were found to have lead levels above the U.S. EPA limits of 400 micrograms of lead per gram (µg/g) of soil.
To solve that problem, raised wooden beds with freshly composted soil were installed in backyard and community gardens by the Food Project. But the researchers have found that the soil in raised beds that starts with as little as 110 micrograms of lead per gram of soil rose to an average of 336 µg/g of lead in just four years.
Just how this is happening is the focus of a Nov. 1 presentation by Emily Estes at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.
"We're trying to get a better handle on the mode of transport and the source," said Estes. That means some pretty detailed monitoring and chemical analyses of the minerals in the soils as well as the kind of lead that's in the soil.
Lead contamination in most cities comes from primarily two sources: leaded gasoline and lead paint. Although both sources have been banned, plenty of that lead remains in urban soils all around the raised bed gardens. Roxbury and Dorchester soils have a lot of lead, but they are not unique.
"It's more elevated than similar neighborhoods, but not unlike other cities," said Estes.
"On the East Coast, where cities are a bit older, it's more of a problem," said Brabander. And even within a city the lead contamination can vary significantly, he said, depending on historical traffic patterns and even such very local effects like a house containing lead paint burning down on a lot that is later used for gardening.
The main suspects in transporting lead into raised beds are wind and perhaps rain, which splatters the ground and can potentially throw fine particles of contaminated soil into the raised beds.
The good news in Roxbury and Dorchester is that the kinds of lead being found are not particularly good at being absorbed by the human body, said Estes. There's also a relatively simple and inexpensive way to keep the lead out of raised beds: just scoop away the top inch or two of soil every year from a raised bed and properly dispose of it, according to local regulations.

This research is funded by a Brachman-Hoffman Fellowship that supports new scientific research directions among faculty at Wellesley College.

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