Thursday, May 27, 2010

Food Synergy: Nature's Meal Plan

According to the results of a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, eating just 2.4 ounces of nuts of any kind was associated with declines of 7.4 percent in bad cholesterol and about 5.1 percent in total cholesterol. Nuts, according to Dr. Joan Sabaté, a professor of nutrition at the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University in California, are major players in the world of HDLs and LDLs. "Nuts are the richest source of protein in the plant kingdom, and they also contain fiber and phytosterols, which compete with cholesterol to be absorbed," she said in an article about the study in the New York Times. "All these nutrients have been demonstrated to lower cholesterol."

If you're in a daily battle with your bad cholesterol, this is good news that could have you thinking like a squirrel. But this latest in nuts news is working a couple of different angles of health and nutrition. What's interesting about Dr. Sabat̩'s assessment is her use of the phrase "all these nutrients". Nature's way of "packaging" nutrients has prompted great interest in food combinations and something widely referred to as food synergy. Some combinations of food can result in an even bigger benefit simply because of their synergy. Nuts seem to have that Рboth as a food and as a pairing.

Happy Together

Food synergy occurs when components within the same food, or components between different foods, work together in a way that is more powerful than their effects would be separately. Food combinations for heightened nutritional value are piquing the interest of researchers and nutritionists because of their impact on disease prevention, heart disease, cancer, chronic diseases, and even weight loss. Elaine Magee, author of Food Synergy and WebMD contributor, has posited that food synergy can be harnessed to fight major diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.

Other synergistic enthusiasts, of course, combine purely for taste. But taste can unwittingly be a factor in health. Food combos based on what we might consider tradition may actually stem from the nutritional effects they provide. That is, our instincts may be leading us toward a yen for salt with chocolate. For example, the vinegar in sushi rice can reduce the glycemic index by up to 35%, limiting the rice's effect upon blood sugar. Similarly, the oil in salad might make it possible for the body to absorb all the dish's antioxidants. Our need to be healthy may be urging our palate to gravitate toward these extraordinary food combinations.

Food "Packages" & Powerful Pairs

Thanks to research into food synergy over the last five years, more and more evidence suggests that the components in the foods we consume interact with each other to give our bodies extra disease protection and a higher level of health. Recent studies focused on risks of chronic diseases and whole grains have suggested that chronic disease may be reduced if whole-grain foods are consumed in a diet otherwise high in plant foods. Another powerful pair? Cooked tomatoes with olive oil. Absorption of two key carotenoids in the skin of the tomato is much greater when the tomatoes are cooked and when eaten with "smart" fat, making olive oil their perfect pairing.

While food combinations can be powerful, components also work together within a single food, confirming that the power is truly nature-created. As a result, these natural mysteries of synergy make it difficult to replicate in supplements that contain only the component. (We've written previously about this supplement challenge.) For example, cruciferous vegetables, according to Magee, a category of vegetables that includes cabbage and broccoli, contain two phytochemicals that were more active when combined, according to research that tested the compounds in rats. These vegetables, with their powerful combination of components, protected the rats more effectively from liver cancer. Also, almonds, cashews, and walnuts, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine nuts study discussed above, contain two forms of vitamin E and tend to work best together: alpha- and gamma-tocopherol.

Wild Blueberries: 1 + 1 = 3

Such good news about nuts along the amazing things we know about wild blueberries might make you think these two nutritionally potent foods would be better together. You're right. Superfood expert Dr. Steven Pratt has touted the immense synergy between blueberries and walnuts for brain health. Dr. Pratt says, "There is synergy between blueberries and almost every other food. If you have blueberries plus walnuts for brain health, that’s better than just walnuts by itself. It’s not 1 plus 1 is 2, its 1 plus 1 is 3." That's the mystery of synergy at work.

Great Combinations for Taste & Health

Here is a collection of some fantastic combinations suggested by a selection of synergy experts that have the potential to enhance health and prevent disease – and liven up a plate.

* Tomatoes & Avocados
* Tomatoes & Broccoli
* Oatmeal & Orange Juice
* Broccoli & Tomatoes
* Wild Blueberries &  Grapes
* Wild Blueberries & Walnuts
* Wild Blueberries & Fish
* Soy & Salmon
* Peanuts & Whole Wheat
* Apples & Chocolate
* Lemon & Kale
* Almonds & Yogurt
* Any Fruit with its Peel (especially darkly colored fruit)
* Green Tea & Lemon
* Garlic & Fish

So go ahead – give synergy a try! Whether you are seeking disease prevention or optimum nutrition, or you're just bored with the regular old meat and potatoes, seek out powerfully nutritious food "packages" and find out what combinations are best for your health goals and your taste buds. While you're at it, go ahead and thank Mother Nature for giving us a taste for what's healthy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Major Health Symposium to Demystify Healthy Choices

The general public is invited to join health professionals, media, and some of the "stars" of health –  including keynote health doc Dr. Mehmet Oz – to explore how "food and lifestyle choices affect overall health and well being during each phase of life" at the Food for Your Whole Life Health Symposium.  The Symposium will be held on June 6-7 at the Grand Hyatt NYC, and is open to health professions, the media, and the general public.

This gathering of great minds in health and nutrition comes at time when confusion about portion control, food choices and labeling is high among consumers. Part of the Symposium's goal is to begin to whittle away at these knowledge gaps by providing education to the public and providing guidance for health professionals upon which the public depends.

The Food for Your Whole Life Health Symposium will feature internationally-recognized researchers, clinicians, educators and health experts, with the goal of providing the most current information about nutrition and healthy living by presenting the latest research on age-based nutrition for optimal health. You can view the list of presenters confirmed to date.

An Education in Health – in NYC! 

While part of the symposium is specifically for health professionals, the public forum to be held on Sunday, June 6 is open to all who want to participate. Sunday's star-studded line up includes presentations by Dr. Oz, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. David Katz, as well as exhibits, presentations, cooking demonstrations and exercise sessions. It's a perfect opportunity to begin to lay your own foundation for good health, and procure clear, relevant advice for living healthy and caring for a healthy family, too.

Read more or register for this Food for Your Whole Life event.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Revisiting Resveratrol: Where are We with Red Wine Research?

The assertion about the astonishing benefits of red wine has caught fire in the health, nutrition and anti-aging communities. Researchers discovered that making a convivial toast can lower the risk of certain cancers and heart disease, and further research into the compounds in red wine revealed its role in reducing blood pressure, relieving constipation, aiding weight loss, and even reversing the aging process. For those who enjoy red wine, this was welcome news. But it was also confusing – the implication that red wine was good for you went against most health advice about alcohol moderation and abstinence that had been dispensed for years.

The confusion was particularly evident when it came to cancer prevention. Cancer prevention experts caution that limiting consumption of alcohol is crucial for reducing cancer risk. Virtually all studies into alcohol consumption reveal a link between drinking alcohol and increased cancer risk – particularly breast cancer. But in light of the compelling potential effects of red wine, the question rankles: to imbibe or not to imbibe?

A Potent Potable

"The breadth of benefits is remarkable – cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more," says Biomedical Sciences professor Lindsay Brown, author of the groundbreaking 2009 study about the effects of red wine. The list reads like a top ten of America's most challenging diseases. Such assertions have brought the compounds responsible for these positive health effects into sharp relief. Red wine contains a complex mixture of bioactive compounds, but the antioxidant resveratrol was the compound that attracted the most interest. It quickly entered the spotlight as the compound responsible for providing wine with its life-giving, disease-preventing potency.

Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in the skins of red grapes. Other foods besides the grape and its popular by-product contain resveratrol, including peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. Research has revealed that resveratrol in these foods may protect the body from cancer by countering the effects of free radicals and preventing damage to cells. Continued research in mice given resveratrol has indicated it might also help protect them from obesity and diabetes, both of which are strong risk factors for heart disease. Consequently, and in some cases opportunistically, resveratrol became popular both in wine and pill form, and continues to be advertised as a long awaited fountain of youth.

Most recently, research from John Hopkins indicates that benefits of the long pour may hold up. Resveratrol, the study indicates, actually prompts cells to defend themselves, a discovery that runs counter to previous theories that resveratrol was "shielding" free radicals. The study also adds protecting the brain from damage following a stroke to its list of potential health benefits. Researchers have yet to understand exactly how resveratrol may be able to "jump start" this protective mechanism within the cells, but the investigation into the process has intensified.

Putting the "No" in Pinot

Along with dietary favorites coffee and chocolate, red wine seems to be in a push-pull purgatory when it comes to determining its status as a true health food. Are these indulgent foods intermittently hyped as healthy because we want it to be true?

One common argument against the benefits for red wine is that the amount of resveratrol that would have to be consumed to see the benefit is prohibitively massive.  It's a common complaint about scientific data and its translation into the real world. Typically, research is conducted on animals, and resveratrol research is no different. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person would have to consume 100 to 1,000 bottles of red wine a day to extract the benefit. Even the most experienced wine drinker would capitulate. (At the same time, researchers involved with the recent study at John Hopkins speculate that "even a small amount may be sufficient" to "jump-start this protective enzymatic system that is already present within the cells.")

In addition, a recent review by the Australian Heart Foundation of more than 100 international studies on antioxidants over the past ten years debunks the belief that red wine, coffee, and chocolate are disease preventing foods. According to the report, the evidence is simply not there. Antioxidants responsible for shielding (or prodding) free radicals are present in fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds and green or black tea – and those foods should be favored for preventing heart disease and cancer, the researchers say, not red wine.

Another obstacle to finding good health in a bottle of Sangiovese concerns how to capture and package its benefit. The market for resveratrol supplements has burgeoned following the news of its potential health benefits. Those seeking to avoid the risks of alcohol, not to mention the hangover that would result from 1,000 bottles of wine, have turned to supplements. However, last month, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins recommended against taking resveratrol supplements as a result of another new study. The benefits, researchers report, are unknown, and it may in fact be "the alcohol in the wine that may be needed to concentrate the amounts of the beneficial compound." According to the study, recreating these benefits in a lab would be ineffective.

Finally, the biggest challenge for red wine's bid to be in the health food aisle may be the lack of support from the prevention community. No organization advises someone who does not already drink red wine to do so for their health. Besides the very serious social risks, drinking too much increases risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, and certain types of cancer. For a healthy food, that's a hard pill to swallow.

I'm Red Wine & I'm OK

It may be leggy and chewy, it may be woody and flabby but is it OK as part of a balanced diet?

"Real" food evangelist Michael Pollan suggests toasting to your health rather than putting a cork in it. Partaking is part of Pollan's Manifesto, a go-to list of rules that includes his famous mantra, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." One of these rules addresses wine consumption and urges having a glass of wine with dinner.

Pollan doesn't rely completely on the science to make this assertion, but on centuries of tradition and anecdotal evidence. While he doesn't suggest that red wine is the silver bullet many have hoped for, he does put stock in the unique protective qualities of polyphenols in red wine – resveratrol being one. Pollan states, "Mindful of the social and health effects of alcoholism, public health authorities are loath to recommend drinking, but the fact is that people who drink moderately and regularly live longer and suffer considerably less heart disease than teetotallers."

With this in mind, he includes a couple of corollaries to the raised glass rule:

1) Drink with food.
2) Drink a little wine a day, not a lot on the weekend.

Mr. Pollan, I think we know what you're talking about.

Jeers or "Cheers"? Our Bottom Line

While the secrets of resveratrol are worth teasing out, the truth is, we currently have much more compelling data about cancer prevention and heart disease prevention that easily passes the straight-face test.

For example, The American Heart Association states: "No direct comparison trials have been done to determine the specific effect of wine or other alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke." While they recognize some benefit from red wine in raising HDLs and preventing platelets in the blood from sticking together, they advise that those who engage in physical activity and supplement with niacin can enjoy even more significant benefits.

The American Cancer Society urges a healthy diet by eating the color spectrum. Cancer fighting foods can be found in the bright blues of blueberries, in leafy greens, and the red of raspberries – foods that support good cell functioning without risk. And, The American Institute for Cancer Prevention states that as many as 375,000 cases of cancer, at current cancer rates, could be prevented each year in our country through healthy dietary choices. In addition to the clear benefits of quitting smoking, eating right, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight, can cut cancer risk by 30 to 40 percent – very compelling data, no trip to Napa required.

Finally, the Mayo Clinic advises those seeking the healthful boost that red wine may provide to drink in moderation — or not at all. The benefits of wine provide a media blitz, but the same benefits can be found in the skins of fruits and other foods.  Our bottom line? Enjoy wine with temperance if you drink it already. Then, devote your prevention efforts toward getting your daily recommendation of fruits and vegetables.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If You Read Only One Health Post, Read This One

In a scene from award-winning 1977 film Annie Hall, Alvy finds himself in a foreign world – a party in a very new age-y California. In it, a young actor named Jeff Goldblum is playing a character who is on the phone calling his meditation guru.

"I forgot my mantra," he laments.

Perhaps you can relate. When it comes to your health, do you feel like you may have forgotten your mantra? No need to call your guru. Use this one:

Get your daily requirement of fruits and veggies.

It doesn't matter if you are young or old, feeling good or battling a tough disease. This is one of the best things you'll ever do for your health, well being, longevity, appearance and outlook. Let me repeat it:

Get your daily requirement of fruits and veggies.

If you do, you'll be doing something that most people in America aren't doing. And you'll be walking around with a powerful secret that is doing amazing things for your body. Let's do it together this time:

Get your … … … requirements of fruits and … … ….

Great job. Now, bring that mantra to fruition. Here's how.

Know Your Fruit and Veggie Daily Intake

The amount of fruits and vegetables you need daily depends on caloric needs, which are determined by age, gender and activity level.

In order to fulfill your mantra, you'll need to follow these four steps:

1. Find your demographic in the chart above.

2. Go to your local grocery and buy enough fruits and veggies of your choice. Remember all forms count.

3. Eat the daily requirement. Add them to a meal, eat them during the day, in the morning, or at night. Put them in a bag and bring them with you on the go.

4. Repeat.

Amazing things can happen when you start eating your daily requirements. It's sort of the gateway to new thinking and new habits that can create transformation – just like any good mantra is meant to do.

Now, go change your life.

That's it. It’s the most important post you'll ever read when it comes to your health, and the best four things you can do to start a new healthy life. Now, you can stop reading.

(Unless you want to know more:)

Ten reasons to eat more fruits & veggies.

Ideas about how to eat more fruits & veggies.

Start taking advantage of frozen fruits.

Helpful tips for feeding your family, buying on a budget and entertaining with fruits and veggies.

Games, information and inspiration about eating fruits & veggies from the USDA.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Antioxidant Superfruit or Super Supplements?

The more we know about antioxidants, the more we realize that a diet that provides plenty of them is an important defense against disease. However, these benefits may not hold for those taking supplements to get their antioxidants rather than relying on dietary antioxidants – those occurring naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables. According to a new study, supplements meant to provide protection against disease may actually increase health risks.

An Antioxidant Primer

Antioxidants are important because they wage the battle against "free radicals". Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that cause cancer and heart disease. Aging itself has been determined to be an accumulation of "oxidative stress" which is the result of damage done by these free radical forms of oxygen. Dietary antioxidants – those found in fruits and vegetables – neutralize these free radicals and prevent the cell damage at the source of these diseases.

Antioxidants also protect against inflammation and are thought to be a leading factor in brain aging, Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases of aging. Scientists continue to study the potential benefits of antioxidants in brain health, urinary tract health, vision health, and heart health, in addition to cancer prevention. As scientists have come to understand the oxidative process in the body, they have also come to understand that those people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables, which provide these crucial antioxidants, tend to live longer and be healthier.

We talk about wild blueberries a lot at Wild About Health! because antioxidant amounts are notoriously high in deeply colored pigments of the skins of fruits and vegetables. That's especially true of wild blueberries, because of their deep-blue skin and their high skin-to-pulp ratio. While the "antioxidant superfruit" moniker conjures otherworldly powers, they are grounded in a very natural potency that does battle against free radicals and the diseases caused by aging the best way we know how.

An Important Knowledge Gap

It stands to reason that in an effort to get the benefits of antioxidants we would turn to supplements. However, a recent study out of Cedar-Sinai in Los Angeles has called supplements into question. The report posits that high doses of antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins C and E, raise the risk of dangerous changes in human cells, and as a result, may actually increase the risk of cancer.

Researchers associated with the study assure us that taking a multivitamin is still OK, but caution that more does not mean better, and could mean worse. George Jetson may have been served his meal in pill form by his robotic maid, but such a lifestyle may contradict good health. In fact, it is in the comparison of natural nutrients and supplements where we reach a gap in our knowledge.

Antioxidants in a supplement simply do not have the same effect as those found naturally in fruits and vegetables. What's more, the potential negative effects of high dosing that can occur in supplements are not replicated in foods. Something is missing – something happens with antioxidants occurring naturally in food that cannot be reproduced in a supplement. From the article in UK's Telegraph:

"Yet if the value of antioxidant supplements is at best uncertain, the evidence for the life-prolonging benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables seems clear. The challenge now is to explain why they work in this form but appear to fail as isolated key chemicals."

While the study prompts questions about supplement dosing (when a dose becomes an overdose), other questions concern how nutrients in naturally occurring antioxidants work in combination with other chemicals enabling the positive effects. Is it a secret synchronicity provided by nature? Or is it simply that those who eat foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and veggies, do other things that are healthy too?

 The Bottom Line

The bottom line is: there may be no short cut to good health. In a world rife with easy answers to health, this latest information reinforces the need to hold our natural sources of nutrients in the highest esteem while remaining informed about the consequences of those that come in a bottle. Foods, compared with supplements, come out on top. For now, George Jetson can keep his bite-sized meal – along with his flying car and robotic maid. 

Start engaging in natural anti-aging: Find out about the #1 Antioxidant Superfruit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grow it! Healthy Eating is in Your Backyard

The White House did it. The Joneses started doing it last year. Even your sister-in-law who lives in a fifth floor walk-up in the city did it. You can do it too! Grow Your Own Garden, that is. It's a near phenomenon that's enjoying a surge in popularity. The world of GYOG promises to explode in 2010. Almost half of garden owners, according to industry research, said they intend to grow their own fruits and vegetables this year, and they predict that the time they spend gardening their edibles will spike.

Growing your own fruits and veggies is abloom with benefits. Foods we grow ourselves are as fresh as it gets, they taste good, and they are free from additives and pesticides. As spring approaches, it's time to get GYOG on your radar. It's healthy, it's satisfying and it's green – literally.

"Go for it" Gardening: What You Need to Know

It's genuine family fun.

The act of growing things from scratch is tailor-made for kids, as is mucking around in dirt. Through gardening, children learn healthy eating habits that stick with them forever. Some families have even established their own "snacking gardens" that designate an area just for kiddos to pull and pluck at will when the spirit hits. It goes without saying that it's a great way for more fresh veggies to make it into their mouths.

Grow stuff you like.

Love cooking with lemongrass? Try growing some. Want to rediscover and oldie but a goodie? Grow your own zingy radishes for salads. (They are hearty and can be planted throughout the season for multiple harvests.) Thinking outside the box? Try your hand at horseradish.

You need a plot of land.

You don't need acres of flowing meadowland to have a household veggie garden. Choose a plot of land that gets the best sun, and fortify it if it has bad soil. Sprinkle seeds, buy veggies that already have a start, or sprout seedlings inside. (Don't forget to mark what you've got.)

You don't need a plot of land, silly.

Urban gardeners the world over have the answer for the plot-impaired: container gardening. It's economical, space-efficient, and works just as well on a patio as it does on a driveway, deck, balcony, door step, or window sill. No excuses – you can even use the floor in a sunny room. You can also get familiar with kitchen gardening. (You don't even have to take up space in your kitchen.)

Tap your green-thumbed neighbors.

Those who run local veggie and fruit stands will be forthcoming about where to buy and not buy starter plants, and they'll give you a little advice about what works and doesn't in your region. Or, head to a chain store with a garden department and chat it up with someone buying bulk seed cartons and wearing a "Got Milkweed?" t-shirt. They'll direct you to the best local offerings.

Think herbs.

Herbs are easy to grow, and they are incredibly useful when you are striving to cook healthy dishes – they can even motivate you to cook more often. Plus, there are many perennials that can serve as the basis of your herb garden. Plant some chives, ask a friend for a sprig of their extravagantly oversize sage bush, and start experimenting with rosemary and mint.

PYO: Pick Your Own

Supplement your earthly take by visiting "pick your own" farms. Farms offer great weekend trips for families, and PYOs are sometimes available at hotels, inns and cabins, often free for the picking. Even wild blueberries, a summer favorite for cake and pies, are known for their late summer harvest season on the barrens, but smaller wild blueberry fields are often available starting in June. They are the perfect "pick your own" fruit. Here's some blueberry picking tips to take along with you.

Backyard Gardening Tips, How-to's and Moral Support:

Find a selection of books on grow-your-own gardening.

Read a Backyard Gardening Blog.

Get Veggie Garden Tips from Epicurious.

Visit Gardener's Supply for videos, basics for composting and watering, and the tools to do it with.

Read about local guys and gals with a global mission that do Kitchen Gardening up right.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pawl-ee-FEE-nol: Today's Nutritional Buzzword?

Just twenty years ago we would have been hard pressed to find information about the little substance called the polyphenol, even in the most arcane scientific literature. Now, thanks to chemical research and nutritional science, polyphenols are turning up everywhere. What accounts for polyphenols going mainstream? Many things. But one interesting thing is your skin.

Sunscreen for Your Insides

"We know that a third of skin-related nutrition relates to polyphenols," Superfood doc Steven Pratt told the Wild Blueberry Health News last fall. "If you want to have healthy skin, you better eat blueberries. They play a bigger role in keeping skin wrinkle-free than any other food group."

Dr. Pratt was referring to research that indicates that polyphenols play a major role in keeping the skin healthy. While piling on the sunscreen has been de rigueur since people began to understand the dangers of sun exposure, both for good health and for wrinkle prevention, Dr. Pratt suggests putting sunscreen on from inside out, with polyphenols. Polyphenols, found in foods like berries, appear to inhibit the production of inflammatory mediators, protecting the skin from wrinkles and from the signs of aging.

What's the connection? Chronic inflammation at the cellular level is at the heart of many degenerative age-related diseases. In studies of rats fed polyphenols-rich blueberries, the concentration of several substances in the brain that can trigger an inflammatory response was significantly reduced. Polyphenols appeared to inhibit the production of these inflammatory mediators. That's important for many health-related reasons, including maintaining healthy, youthful skin. You can read the research here.

Put Polyphenols in Your Life

In addition to serving as an internal sunscreen, polyphenols, because of their antioxidant properties, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. In fact, polyphenols as regulators of carbon cycling have even been of interest to researchers for how they might affect global warming.

Berries are one of the major players in the role of polyphenols, hence Dr. Pratt's reference to blueberries as a great source. High levels of polyphenols can generally be found in fruit skins, which is why the deep blue skin of blueberries, and the high skin-to-pulp ratio of wild blueberries in particular, puts this fruit at the top of the list. Other sources of polyphenols include tea, grapes, chocolate, and many fruits and vegetables.

The idea that we can protect our skin from within as well as from without should be considered groundbreaking for a society preoccupied with youth (Hands, please!). Health always works from the inside out, after all. Now that summer's around the corner, you can pack in the polyphenols when you think of slapping on the sunscreen, knowing you are doing something truly beneficial for your skin.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What "Fast" Has Done to Us (and How to Fix it)

A recent Alternet article featured some intriguing new research that suggests that fast food makes individuals impatient and strengthens their desires to complete tasks as quickly.

According to the study, exposure to fast food – thinking about it, eating it, ordering it, or simply seeing a fast food logo – leads to a desire to take the quickest path toward fulfillment of desires. Saving for retirement? Don't drive by the golden arches. If you do, you'll be more likely to splurge on short-term pleasures and blow your nest egg on a fast car or a pair of strappy Louboutins. 

But what role does fast food play as a cause of these new cultural mores? Is it to blame, or is it just the run off of a fast track world?  “What we can infer from our studies,” the researchers say, “is that exposure to fast food and related symbols reinforces an emphasis on impatience and instant gratification, and that fast food can have a far broader impact on individuals’ behaviors and choices than previously thought.”

Devoted to & Consumed by Fast 

It's the zeitgeist of the age: college grads have been stigmatized as wanting to make the big bucks rather than climb the career ladder (did someone say Wall Street?); our kids are blamed for having too much too fast when it comes to consumer goods and brand names; we text and email and wonder why no one responds within minutes (Are they terribly sick? In some sort of dire trouble?); and technology is based on instant gratification: why wait for the new iPad when you can get it the day it hits shelves?

Alternet's research implies that through exposure to fast, we stoke our fiery desire to live fast. It makes sense that fast food – food that is available everywhere to eat at any time – is a cog in this wheel of impatience. Imagine – we can be biting a burger within seconds of asking for it at a fast food counter or drive-thru! What might seem like speed-of-light magic to other cultures and other ages is just a part of American life. Regardless of where the cause ends and the effect begins, it makes intuitive sense that our want-it-now culture is a monster that feeds on itself simply because we live in it.

Must We Accept the Fast Monster?

Slow foodies say no way. Here are some gateways into immersing in slow and beginning to counteract the tidal wave of fast:

First stop is Slow Food. Slow Food says it is attempting to renew America's food traditions and regards Slow Food as an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It also deems itself a global, grassroots movement. You can find out more close to home by joining a local Slow Food chapter.

Next up is Slow Food International. This organization paves the way for those looking for other ways counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Now you're off and running. Remember too, slow food doesn't have to mean waiting around for your food – the "slow" in slow food often refers to the way it is produced, not prepared, Alice Waters has said. See what this fresh, local food evangelist is up to now.