It is finally getting warmer in the Northern Hemisphere and we will happily be exposing more of our skin to the sun. After the 15-30 minutes required in the sun (without sunblock) for our bodies to make and store Vitamin D, we need to protect ourselves from the harmful overexposure.
Chemical sunscreens don’t sit on the surface of the skin – they soak into it and quickly find their way into the bloodstream. They scatter all over the body without being detoxified by the liver and can be detected in blood, urine, and breast milk for up to two days after a single application. That would be just fine if they were uniformly safe – but they’re not.
When the FDA began to consider sunscreen safety, it grandfathered in active ingredients from the late 1970s without reviewing the evidence of their potential hazards. One of the active ingredients that the FDA claims to be unsure of is oxybenzone, found in an estimated 70% of sunscreens.
The Environmental Working Group writes: Sunscreen is a body care product that consumers are directed to apply a thick coat over large areas of the body and reapply frequently. Thus, ingredients in sunscreen should not be irritating or cause skin allergies, and should be able to withstand powerful UV radiation without losing their effectiveness or forming possibly harmful breakdown products. People might inhale ingredients in sunscreen sprays and ingest some of the ingredients they apply to their lips, so ingredients must not be harmful to lungs or internal organs. Furthermore, sunscreens commonly include ingredients that act as “penetration enhancers” to help the product adhere to skin.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely detect oxybenzone in more than 96 percent of Americans. Study participants who reported using sunscreen have higher oxybenzone exposures. Investigators at University of California, Berkeley, reported a dramatic drop in teen girls’ exposure to oxybenzone in cosmetics when they switched from their usual products to replacements that did not contain this chemical.
Researchers from the CDC found that adolescent boys with higher oxybenzone measurements had significantly lower total testosterone levels. Three other studies reported statistically significant associations between oxybenzone exposure during pregnancy and birth outcomes. One reported shorter pregnancies in women carrying male fetuses; two reported higher birth weights in baby boys; and one found lower birth weights in baby girls.
Oxybenzone is lethal to many sea creatures, and poses a serious threat to coral reefs and sea life. Hawaii recently ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Key West, a city on Florida’s most southern tip, will ban the sale of sunscreen with these ingredients as of January 2021.
It is important to note that these ingredients can also be found in makeup, moisturizers and lip balms with sunscreen protection. Also, many sunscreens contain vitamin A or its derivatives, retinol and retinol palmitate, which have been linked to a risk of skin cancer by increasing the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed NON-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – the only TWO- to be safe for human use. Most nanoscale particles (microscopic particles measuring less than 100 nanometers) found in American sunscreens are either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Zinc oxide appears thick, white and pasty. But when the sunscreens are made with nanoparticles they turn clear – which makes them more user-friendly. But, they are getting into the users bloodstream as nanoparticles.
Improved sunscreens are just one of the many innovative uses of nanotechnology, which involves drastically shrinking and fundamentally changing the structure of chemical compounds. But products made with nanomaterials also raise largely unanswered safety questions – such as whether the particles that make them effective can be absorbed into the bloodstream and are toxic to living cells.
Scientists don’t yet know how long nanoparticles remain in the human body or what they might do there. But research on animals has found that inhaled nanoparticles can reach all areas of the respiratory tract; because of their small size and shape, they can migrate quickly into cells and organs. The smaller particles may also pose risks to the heart and blood vessels, the central nervous system and the immune system, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Animal studies have shown that some nanoscale materials can cross the protective blood-brain barrier, which could allow pharmaceuticals to deliver medicine directly to the brain to treat tumors or other conditions. But there’s also evidence that some nanoparticles could cause damage through oxidative stress and other mechanisms if they got to the brain. Environmental Protection Agency found data gaps in six critical areas, including a review of human health and toxicological data. In a January report, the research council warned that “little progress has been made on the effects of ingested nanomaterials on human health. In the case of sunscreen, nanoparticle toxicity depends on a variety of factors, including their size, structure, surface properties or coating and ability to aggregate or clump together, forming larger particles.”
Next week I will discuss which brands are user-friendly (don’t leave you white and paste-y looking!).
Asparagus is a delicious, affordable spring vegetable. It is low in calories but packed with nutrients. A half a cup has 20 calories, an astonishing 57% of RDI of vitamin K, 34% of folate, 18% of vitamin A, not to mention zinc, riboflavin, iron, vitamin C,E, potassium, and phosphorus.
Asparagus is a good source of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, flavonoids and polyphenols. Antioxidants prevent the accumulation of harmful free radicals and may reduce your risk of chronic disease.
A half a cup of asparagus contains 1.8 grams of fiber, 7% of your daily need. Studies suggest that a diet high in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Asparagus contains both insoluble and soluble fiber, both of which are necessary to keep your gut healthy.
Asparagus is a wonderful food to add if you are pregnant because it is a great source of vitamin B9. Folate is an essential nutrient to help form red blood cells and produce DNA. Getting enough folate from sources like asparagus, green leafy vegetables and fruit can protect against neural tube defects, including spina bifida. A half a cup provides 34% of your DRI.
A half a cup of asparagus has 6% of your daily need of potassium, essential to lower blood pressure. Studies suggest that this is due to an active compound in asparagus that causes blood vessels to dilate.
How to Buy
Asparagus can be purple, white or green. When buying green asparagus, look for stalks that are a bright green. The tips may have a bit of a purple color, which is totally natural and perfect to buy, but stay clear if the tips are a very dark green, or almost look black as the asparagus is likely past its prime. The tips should also be tight and fully closed.
Cut asparagus doesn’t tend to last very long so purchase it in stores that have the cut ends sitting in water or have the bundles refrigerated. Make sure that the asparagus is crisp by trying to bend one of the stalks. It shouldn’t be flexible at all and instead, snap off. The asparagus tips shouldn’t look wet, while the cut ends should look freshly cut and not dry.
The thinner the asparagus, the more tender it is, and that the really large asparagus tend to have a bit more texture. Smaller spears are great for quick cooking like blanching and in stir-fries.Thicker asparagus does well with higher heat cooking such as roasting and grilling. More important thing is that all the asparagus in a bunch is of similar size so cooking even cooking is easier.
How to Store
Asparagus doesn’t last very long once cut and will start losing flavor quickly. If possible, cook and eat your asparagus the same day you buy it. But, you can also store it in the fridge for a few days, preferably placing the cut ends in a glass filled with just a bit of water (changed daily) or wrap the cut ends in a damp paper towel. Asparagus also doesn’t reheat that well so only cook as much as you’re going to eat that day or use the leftovers as a cold snack or chopped up cold to add to a salad.
How to Cook
In addition to being nutritious, asparagus is delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet. Asparagus is one of the easiest vegetables to prepare. All you really have to do is get rid of the woodier ends, then season and cook as desired. You don’t even need a knife. Just grab an asparagus stalk with both hands and snap it. The woody part should naturally break off. Rarely larger stalks will have tougher exteriors which can be fixed by shaving off a layer with a vegetable peeler.
Asparagus can be cooked in a variety of ways, including boiling, grilling, steaming, roasting and sautéing.
Asparagus can be used in a number of dishes like salads, stir-fries, frittatas, omelets and pastas, and it makes an excellent side dish.
Chopped Salad with Shallot Poppy Seed Dressing
Terry Walters, Clean Food
8 as a side dish
8 as a side dish
8 stalks asparagus
1 T lemon juice
2 heads endive, chopped
2 bunches watercress, chopped
1 head radicchio, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 t sea salt
1/8-1/4 cup maple syrup – to taste
2 T poppy seeds
Garnish: 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
Bend each piece of asparagus next to the tough dried end until it snaps off at its natural breaking point. Discard ends, wash asparagus and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in bowl. Bring 3 cups water to a boil. Pour over asparagus and let sit for 1 minute, then drain.
Cut avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh and cut into chunks and toss with lemon juice to prevent browning.
In a large bowl, combine all dressing ingredients except the poppy seeds and whisk by hand or with a handheld blender. Stir in poppy seeds.
Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine. Toss with pumpkin seeds and serve.