August 19th, 2009Aging

by James A. Duke, Ph.D.
from The Green Pharmacy

Being a botanist, I have a particular interest in herbs that can hold back the aging process.  But I’m forced to admit that I think lifestyle changes are a whole lot more important than herbs.

Not being a doctor, I don’t prescribe, but I would not hesitate to suggest the following to my 30-year-old daughter so she could hold on more tenaciously to her vibrant youth.  Come to think of it, this is good advice for men and women of any age who are trying to hold back the clock.

Drink two antioxidant herb teas a day.  Good research suggests that oregano, rosemary, bee balm, lemon balm (also known as melissa), peppermint, sage, spearmint, savory and thyme contain significant levels of antioxidants.

Eat at least one big salad a day.  You can use both wild greens – things like purslane, if you have access to them – and a variety of domestic salad vegetables, such as spinach and chicory.  Green leaves are chock full of antioxidant nutrients that help protect you from heart disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases that tend to come on as we age.

Eat one or two Brazil nuts a day.  The average Brazil nut contains more than the Daily Value of the antioxidant mineral selenium – 70 micrograms.

Eat a handful of sunflower seeds a day, along with a sprinkling of other nuts.  Among nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds are one of the better sources of Vitamin E.  They’re also cheap.  One caution, however: If you’re watching your waistline, don’t eat more than an ounce of nuts a day.  Nuts are high in fat.

Eat at least one broccoli spear, carrot and celery stalk a day.  They’re all high in fiber.  Broccoli and carrots are also high in beta-carotene, the powerful antioxidant that the body transforms into vitamin A.  Celery is high in apigenin, a chemical that expands (dilates) the blood vessels and may help prevent high blood pressure.

Drink a fruit smoothie every day.  Take any fruits that appeal to you – apples, oranges, bananas, grapefruit, melons or berries – and run them through a blender.

Replace one meat course a day with a vegetarian dish.  One of my favorites is guacamole – mashed avocado.  You can lace your guacamole with onion, hot chili peppers, garlic and lemon juice and sprinkle it with chopped nuts such as hazelnuts, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, peanuts or Brazil nuts.

Use olive oil.  Corn oil and other vegetable oils are polyunsaturated oils.  Olive oil is a monounsaturated oil.  There is a complex chemical explanation for how these differ, but all you really need to know is that there’s a good reason to believe that monounsaturated oils are a lot better for you.  In salad dressings, replace polyunsaturated oils with olive oil.

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  Also eat a good selection of herbs, legumes, nuts and spices.  These are the foods that our ancestors consumed back in the days before the invention of burgers, hot dogs, pizza, ice cream and all the junk we eat today.  They ate more nutritiously than we do.

Make love regularly with someone you love.  There’s no explanation needed here except that it’s good for you.

Go for a walk every day.  Weather permitting, get outdoors and take a vigorous half-hour walk.  Use the time to unwind and commune with the natural world.

Don’t smoke.  This goes without saying.

Don’t drink alcohol

Don’t sunbathe – ever.  You probably get enough sun to produce a healthy amount of vitamin D with moderate outdoor activities that don’t involve actively seeking the sun.
NOTE: Dr. Christopher felt it was healthy to get sun every day.  For more information see this article: The School of Natural Healing advocates Dr. Christopher’s approach.

Don’t take life or death too seriously.  That can age or kill you.

Don’t be a dietary faddist.  It’s never a good idea to base your diet on just a couple of foods, even fruits or carrots.  Vary your diet, your food sources, your mode of preparation and even the company you keep when you dine.

Don’t let industry outvote the environmentalists.  If you do, we’ll all pay the price eventually.

NOTE: The School of Natural Healing recommends you also take the 5 supplements every day that Dr. Christopher recommended.  You can find those here:

by Yvonne Salcido, MH

Interestingly enough the impetus for Dr. Christopher’s beginnings in the health field was his study of nutrition.  He was searching for correct principles to regain his health and did so by studying the holy word of God.

He learned that there are immutable biological laws that govern cellular health, and when these laws are broken disease will eventually follow. We reap what we sow. The thing that is hard for most of us to swallow, is the daily choices we make do affect are health.  Are we digging an early grave with our teeth?

There are so many conflicting messages on the subject of nutrition all around us. You can hear something on the news one week and the next week exactly the opposite.  I remember in college a totally opposite perspective given in lectures by two different professors in Nutrition.  At the time I thought the professor that agreed with my taste buds must be teaching truth because it was the “norm.”  Finally thru life’s experiences (“the school of hard knocks”) learned correct principles thru The School of Natural Healing. My taste buds have greatly improved and I have seen marvelous healing take place in myself and many others thru these correct principles. The foundation truths Dr. Christopher taught are timeless and provide a sure foundation for nutrition. 

Dr. Christopher taught that our food should be what our creator intended. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Most people think we have to have meat and dairy to survive. Dr. Christopher taught that meat is to be used sparingly in winter or time of famine. In Webster dictionary the definition of sparingly is “hardly ever”. I must admit I was surprised when I first looked it up. Most Americans think that sparingly means two-three times a day. We have been taught so many incorrect principles thru the media.

We are the only nation that weans its babies and then puts them on another mammal’s milk. We have the highest incidence of osteoporosis in the world. Harvard University did a study that proves dairy causes osteoporosis. It is a bad choice if you want to get your calcium. How about eating broccoli, celery, and almonds these are packed with more calcium than milk. Vegetables are loaded with minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants, and phyto-nutrients in abundance! Since I have given up dairy I don’t have hay fever, sinus infections, and laryngitis constantly.

Let me suggest five things to improve your daily nutrition. First, let your foods be in their wholesome state the way nature made them. Ezra T. Benson said “Let your food be as close to nature as possible.”

Second, avoid anything toxic or habit forming such as: Coffee, carbonated drinks, teas that have habit forming properties such as caffeine, tobacco, drugs and any addictive foods, sugar etc. Processed foods are highly addictive.

Third, “Fresh Is Best” - live foods beget health and vitality whereas dead, over-cooked foods beget disease and death. The average American only consumes 5% of total dietary intake in the form of fruits and vegetables. No wonder many complain of lack of energy!

Fourth, the “Staff of Life” (wheat) was not meant to be ground to powder and cooked at high temperatures. Try low-heated, sprouted, or dried breads, cereals, and cracker recipes. You will feel so much better. Remember a staff is to support not the mainstay of a nutritional program.

Fifth, eat “in the season thereof” - nature really knows what foods are best for you in each of the beautiful seasons. This prepares you for the next season ahead in the perfect way. Plant a garden -  this a great way to enjoy all the delicious fresh fruits and vegetables you desire.

Adherence to these correct principles will give you a life of health and happiness!

June 10th, 2009Sprouts

by Yvonne Salcido, MH

HISTORY: Sprouts have been used for thousands of years. The Chinese have records of using sprouts 5,000 years ago for nutrition and healing. The Roman soldiers used them in the long journeys. In the Bible Daniel used pulse, which was a mixture of grains and sprouted seeds. This is how he and his companions increased their health and wisdom.

BENEFITS: Scientific studies have shown that by sprouting grains, beans, seeds, and nuts the nutrition levels of proteins, vitamins and minerals increased 300-1000%.  By sprouting you have released the protective coating of the grain so the digestive enzymes are released. This makes them easily digestible for babies and the elderly.

FACTS: By sprouting your grains and beans you can remain healthy and strong having fresh food with high protein, vitamin and mineral content.  If you are short on storage space you can have one 45 lb. bucket of sprouting mixture and have a year supply for one person.

Sprouting is easy and you can have fresh produce in 3-4 days!!!

HOW TO SPROUT: Place seeds in glass quart jar or sprouter.  Cover with water, let sit for 24 hours.  Then drain and rinse 3 times a day for 3 days. During this time cover with towel to keep in the dark for 2-3 days, then you can remove the towel and let them green up. They are good by the handful or in salads, sandwiches, or your favorite recipes.

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January 28th, 2009Carrot Part II - Liver Cleanse

by Norma Cook, MH

It has been said that too much carrot juice turns the skin yellow/orange.  However, it is not the carrot turning the skin yellow/orange but the release of bile. R. W. Walker states:  “Intestinal and liver diseases are sometimes due to a lack of certain elements contained in properly prepared raw carrot juice.  When this is the case, then a noticeable cleaning up of the liver may take place, and the material, which was clogging it, may be found to dissolve.  Frequently this is released so abundantly that the intestinal and urinary channels are inadequate to care for this overflow, and in a perfectly natural manner it is passed into the lymph for elimination from the body by means of the pores of the skin.  This material has a distinctly orange or yellow pigment and while it is being so eliminated from the body will sometimes discolor the skin.  Whenever such a discoloration takes place after drinking carrot or other juices, it is an indication that the liver is getting a well-needed cleaning.”

Allopathic doctors speak of a condition called Carotenosis (yellowing of the skin) in “The Doctors Book of Food Remedies” as a harmless condition, remedied by stopping the ingestion of carrots for a while, until the skin returns to its natural color.  They state that this has been reported by and is seen most often in children who have been fed a lot of pureed carrots.  However, Dr. Walker states, “It is NOT the carrot juice itself nor the carotene that comes through the skin, as this discoloration will take place even if the juice is filtered to the point of clearing it of all the color pigment. It is just as practical an impossibility for the carrot pigment itself to come through the skin as it would be for the red pigment of the beet to turn the body red or the chlorophyll of the green vegetables to paint the skin green from within.”

Jaundice is defined in the “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” as a yellowing of the skin and eyes that is caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood.  Bilirubin is a yellow-brown substance that results from the breakdown of old red blood cells.  If the waste product is not removed from the bloodstream by the liver, as it should be, a backup of bilirubin in the blood occurs, producing a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.”  …”Jaundice is not a disease in itself, but a sign of any one of several blood or liver disorders.  Among the conditions that can cause jaundice are cirrhosis of the liver, pernicious anemia, hepatitis, and hemolysis, or some type of obstruction in the path of the bile flow.”

With regard to Jaundice, Dr. Christopher reminds us that the liver is the main seat of the problem.  The bile does not excrete properly and is passed off into the blood stream and the body tissues, causing a toxic condition (called cholemia) causing indigestion, sluggishness, fatigue, constipation, upset stomach, chills, vomiting and fever.  The stools become light clay or chalky color, the skin takes on a gold cast, yellow shows in the whites of the eyes, and bile deposits in the skin cause itching.  Carrot juice will bring the skin from clear to yellow (as the liver clears) and then back to normal, which is a sign that the bile is now cleared and flowing properly into the intestinal tract…”  Dr. Christopher advised to proceed with caution since rapid unloading of toxic bile may upset the body and induce vomiting as well as turn the skin extremely yellow.

The carrot may be juiced eaten whole, raw or cooked.  The juice is preferred, as the healing factors are sufficiently concentrated to supply the system with what it needed.  If juiced 1-6 pints a day of the juice may be taken orally, or as a wash or in a poultice form externally. 

R. W Walker states that raw carrot juice may be taken in any reasonable quantities from one to six or even eight pints a day.  This has the effect of helping to normalize the entire system.  It is the richest source of Vitamin A which the body can quickly assimilate and contains an ample supply of Vitamins B, C, D, E, G and K.  It helps to promote the appetite and is an aid to digestion.”

One of the juice choices on the Three Day Cleanse created by Dr. Christopher is carrot juice, where one drinks a glass of carrot juice every waking hour for three days.  He also includes it in the Incurables Program as a possible juice choice for a week, drinking as much as one desires of the fresh juice daily for 6 days.

January 14th, 2009Winter Squash

Winter SquashWinter Squash includes any of the hard-skinned squash – including pumpkin, spaghetti, butternut, and acorn squash.  They are picked in the fall and store well through the winter (store whole winter squash in an area where temperatures range from 45 to 50°F for three to six months. At room temperature reduce storage time to one and a half to three months depending on variety).

While most of you still have plenty of time to think about this – If you want to plant winter squash then remember that squash is a tender vegetable.  The seeds do not germinate in cold soil, and the seedlings are injured by frost. Do not plant until all danger of frost is past and soil is thoroughly warmed.  Winter squash can be harvested whenever the fruits have turned a deep, solid color and the rind is hard. Harvest the main part of the crop in September or October, before heavy frosts hit your area.

Winter squash is high in fiber and you will find it very filling.  They are also nutrient-dense – high in beta-carotene, potassium and Vitamins C and A.

For more information visit:

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August 13th, 2008Gardening Dilemma

by Yvonne Salcido, M.H.

August 13, 2008

This is the time of year I love most! Everything is green. The earth’s abundance and beauty is showcased everywhere you turn. Breath taking foliage, dazzling colors, succulent smells, delicious fruits and vegetables - wonders to behold with the eye and taste buds.

If you’re like most people who get interested in natural healing next on your journey comes an interest in gardening. Some start there first. However, if you have developed a green thumb there is a serious side effect, what I call the “Gardening Dilemma.” In other words, “What am I going to do with all this fresh produce?” You can only eat so much! This is nature’s way to help us prepare for the winter. Eating food in season and fresh is best, but what should you do with all of the extra food?  Based on The School of Natural Healing’s teachings I’ll give you a few ideas I have found helpful. Drying food at low temperatures (90-105 degrees) is best. Drying at low temperatures might take a little longer, but then it is like eating fresh produce. It is still rich in live enzymes, vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy all winter.

When I first started to dry foods I made a homemade dryer by nailing some 1 x 2’s together that were four feet long. I then got some screen from the hardware store and used flat quilting pins to secure the screen to the boards. I put a screen on the top and the bottom to keep the bugs out. On the top I only secured one edge with push pins so I could open it up to put the food in. I then put the food in and lifted the screen back over to cover it. I placed each end of the dryer on the back of two chairs to keep it off the ground. I then placed it in the shade. Voila, you have a food dryer for less than five bucks.

My neighbor said that she just uses two window screens, one for the top and one for the bottom. That is absolutely cost FREE. It also helps her to remember to clean her windows and screens.

Later I found a great dryer at a garage sale with 12 trays. Now I have an Excalibur Dryer, which is also great to use as an oven for living meals because, guess what? YOU control the temperatures.

By Traci Sellers

Because I advocate so highly that 70% of your diet by volume should be fresh, live produce: high water content vegetables and fruit, this is a question I get asked a lot. I’d like to go over the pro’s and cons of both, so that you can make an informed decision, and get what’s right for you and the people you feed.

Recently I had the opportunity of comparing the two in a way that changed my perception of both. Our family had decided to go out to eat at a restaurant we knew would have excellent food choices that would allow us to keep our high dietary standards: Sweet Tomatoes, the Salad Buffet Restaurant. (Not to be confused with Green Tomatoes, a chain here in the South that is also a buffet of all the same foods, except they are breaded and deep fat fried.) This restaurant was a considerable drive from where we were, so Kal decided that on our way there he would stop for a small appetizer. We stopped in to the Life Café in Marietta. He grabbed a little to go container of fresh organic salad greens, organic sprouts and organic raw hummus, and was kind enough to share bites with me on our way to the restaurant. It was delightful and fresh, and I looked forward to filling a whole plate with the live, raw goodness I knew awaited me at Sweet Tomatoes, as I had eaten there many times when I first made my transition to increase the amount of live food in my diet when we were living in Salt Lake City, UT.

I filled my plate with great anticipation and as we sat together eating our salads, we both realized that we were both experiencing the same thing. This raw salad, though almost identical to the appetizer we had shared, was not nearly as good. It just lacked a dimension of energy and nourishment that the organic salad had. FOR THE FIRST TIME, AFTER EATING LIVE FOOD FOR 8 YEARS, I COULD TASTE THE DIFFERENCE. This had never before happened to me, and I have eaten organic produce plenty of times. Now, I am investigating new sources for our staple produce, looking into organics, because the difference was so profound. I am ready to make the switch. Before you assume that I am 100% PRO for organic, read on.

My experience at the restaurant brought to light what I have always assumed, Organic Is Better. AND the question remains, is that what I should buy? For ME, the answer now is yes. But if you had asked me a month ago, a year ago, 8 years ago, the answer would have been NO. Why? Because then, it would not have been congruent for where I was in my transition. When I first started to change, simply switching from dead food to live food was reward in and of itself, and I tell you now, as I will continue to tell anyone who takes my classes, you don’t need organic produce to be healthy. I would take a live, conventionally raised salad over an organic white flour pasta any day. (Of which there are tons of varieties, I am not sure why people go to the trouble to grow organic wheat, only to refine the goody out of it.) Food that is alive has more power to nourish us than dead-processed organic food any day.

So PRO for conventional produce, IT IS ALIVE. And if you are at the point in your transition where the choice is between dead and alive, choose alive conventional produce.

Second issue, Cost. Where are you at financially? It is true that the cost and availability of organic produce is improving. This is going to be helped tremendously by your willingness as a consumer to choose organic (it is a supply and demand thing). And although the margin of cost difference is decreasing, it is still a reality. I have to share with you something that one of my students said in a class I taught recently where the question of Organic vs. Conventional came up. She says she looks at that margin of difference between the organic choice and the conventional, chooses the organic and says to herself, “I’m worth it.” I loved her candor and attitude. Yes, I too am worth it. 50 cents, a dollar? I am worth it.

On the flip side, does going for organic place such a strain on your budget that you feel like you can’t get very much, if any at all? If this is where you are, and the question is conventional produce or no produce, buy conventional. The road to being Truly Healthy is paved with live vegetation. Keep your road full of produce, because that matters more than whether or not it is organic.

A few years back, I tried to switch to all organics and found that I couldn’t get nearly the same volume I could in conventional. Then, at home, I was cringing whenever someone wanted a piece of fruit! I was rationing it out, so there would be enough to last until the next grocery day. I had tension and stress over my family eating too much produce. Whoa! I teach this! No way did I want them to not eat their produce! No way did I want tension around my live food! For me then, I would rather have my family partake freely and lovingly from a case load of conventionally raised oranges than a small basket of hoarded organic oranges. So PRO for conventional produce, it is cheaper.

Now the pesticide question. That is why we want organic, right? Because there are no pesticides on it. I would just like to put the pesticide issue into perspective. In my Principles book (available as a free download if you haven’t gotten in yet at  I have a chart that shows pesticide residues in common foods in parts per million. In a potato, the pesticide residue is .003. In a piece of animal flesh, it is .281, nearly 300 more parts per million in every bite. It would take you almost a year of eating conventionally grown potatoes to get the same amount of pesticide residue that one serving of chicken contains. Why? Because not only do the animals bodies collect and concentrate the poisons into their flesh, their feed is allowed to have 20% more pesticides used than that of crops grown for human use.

So if you are weighing the pros and cons pertaining to pesticides, consider what else is on your plate besides the produce. You can also reduce surface pesticides significantly by scrubbing well (root vegetables) or peeling (fruits) your produce. For those who have already eliminated the more concentrated sources of pesticides from their diet, or for those battling a serious health condition, the question becomes, poison or no poison? It is one more thing your body will have to eliminate, and the organic produce has far less or none. So PRO for organic, it is better.

As I blog along here, more issues between conventional and organic produce keep coming to mind that I haven’t addressed. I think the examples I have given here though, express the point I want to make sufficiently. I am neither pro-organic or pro-conventional, I am PRO-Produce! Eat food that is alive.

The decision to go organic is going to depend on you as an individual. Where are you at in your transition? Are you just starting to add in produce or have you been a long time user? If you are still working on how to get off of processed foods, white flour, sugar and dairy, focus on that. If you have a handle on eating healthfully and the difference between an organic salad and a non organic one is profound, it is time to make the switch. Wherever you are, be sure to savor every bite.

Love from your friend,


Excerpts from “The Herb Companion” July 2008
May 21, 2008

You’ve coddled your seedlings, nourished your soil, and provided a cozy habitat for beneficial birds and insects.  Yet by early to midsummer, an explosion of aphids, Japanese beetles or some other insect pest threatens to destroy not only your serenity, but also your garden’s beauty and bounty.

The good news is you can stop these insect invaders without turning to dangerous pesticides.  Following these five steps almost always does the trick.

1) Scout out and identify pests

If you have trouble identifying what you’re seeing, contact your County Extension Agent or go to, which has photos and information on 25 common garden pests.  Remember that not all insects are pests – ladybugs, lacewings and praying mantises are beneficial predators that help control pests.

2) Destroy pests in their vulnerable larval stage.

Begin with the least toxic way of destroying the pests – a strong spray of water.  Spray the entire plant, side to side and top to bottom – as well as the top and bottom of leaves – until the plant is completely clean.  The best time to spray water (or any control product) is in the cool of the day when plants are not in direct sunlight.

Besides using a water bath to stop pests you can also use a homemade garlic-chile-soap spray (see recipe below).  After spraying the plants with water follow up with the garlic-chile-soap spray every three to five days until the pest is gone.

3) Establish a control routine and record applications.

4) Keep your garden clean (that includes pots, tools and work surfaces, too).

5) Remove and dispose of dying and dead leaves on plants and the soil.
Garlic and Chile Insecticidal Soap Spray
Makes about 3 cups concentrate

10-12 large cloves of garlic
4-6 hot chile peppers, dried or fresh
2 cups water
1 tablespoon biodegradable liquid dishwashing soap
Optional: 10 drops cinnamon, vetiver or eucalyptus essential oil

1) Put garlic, chiles and water into a blender and puree contents until foamy.

2) Let mixture stand at least 2 hours or overnight.  When mixture settles, you will have a coral-colored liquid with sediment at the bottom.

3) Pour through a strainer lined with fine cheesecloth (or through a coffee filter or jelly bag) to remove particles that could block the sprayer valve.

4) Pour concentrate into a jar with plastic lid (not metal), add soap (and essential oil, if desired), stir and label.

5) Store in a cool, dark place until needed, up to a few months.  For a 1-quart or 1-liter spray bottle, use 2 tablespoons concentrate and fill the rest of the bottle with water.

6) Spray plants late in the day, so hot sun can’t burn the plants.  Cover the top and bottom of leaves.  Re-apply as often as needed, but allow several days between applications.

(NOTE: this article is from the old School of Natural Healing newsletter)

April 2005

by Karen Saura, MH

Childhood obesity is rapidly becoming a major health issue for American children. Because children spend so much of their time in schools and so many of our children attend school through out national public school systems, school food programs stand out as a natural place to look to if we want to shift this national trend in a more positive and healthy direction. Exploring the role food programs in the public schools play in childhood obesity is a good place to begin, both as a part of the problem and as a part of the solution.

The factors that indicate the need for change are found in the health baseline of our children today. The Centers for Disease Control has declared that there is an epidemic of child and adolescent obesity in the United States. California is no exception. Statewide, 30% of children are at risk or already overweight; in some school districts, 40-50% of children are overweight. Childhood obesity is on the rise, and disorders like ADD have been linked to what children eat (Crane, 2005: 1).

The Harvard Magazine examined the evolution of humans and our diet in an article titled “The Way We Eat Now”. “The obesity epidemic arrived with astonishing speed” (Lambert, 2004: 51). According to John Foreyth of Baylor College of Medicine, “Childhood obesity, once rare, has mushroomed: 15% of children between ages six and 19 are now overweight, and even 10% of those between two and five” (Lambert, 2004: 51). In the 1990’s physicians began to report an alarming discovery of children being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which often accompanies obesity. Type 2 diabetes was previously found only in adults (Nestle & Dixon, 2004:132).

Yale psychologist, Kelly Brownell, attributes this alarming trend to what she calls “a toxic food environment of cheap fatty food, large portions, pervasive food advertising and sedentary lives” (Nestle & Dixon, 2004:132). Steven Gortmaker, professor of society, human development, and health at the Harvard School of Public Health, observes that the “convenience-food culture is so ubiquitous that even conscientious parents have trouble steering their children away from junk food”. In researching children’s diets and comparing caloric intake on days when children ate in a fast food restaurant to days they did not, “they soaked up 126 calories more on fast-food days, which could translate into a weight gain of 13 pounds per year on fast food alone” (Lambert, 2004: 52).

For the most part, the current trend in public school food programs is to cut costs by using cheaper pre-packaged government subsidized foods and to look to outside vendors to increase revenues by making brand name fast foods available for consumption on campuses. It is clear that the factors which drive the eating pattern of most American children are greatly influenced by media, corporate advertising, and the availability of poor quality fast food with limited nutritional values.

The government subsidizes low-quality foods, corn and wheat for example, while neglecting far healthier items such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. Pediatrics specialist David Ludwig gives his assessment. “It’s a perverse situation. The foods that are the worse for us have an artificially low price, and the best foods cost more.” This in turn impacts school lunches. When districts find their budgets cut, the impact is seen in the cafeterias. Most schools are serving up more and more fast food, and make soft drinks and candies available through school vending machines (Lambert, 2004: 98). This shift in food availability has an immediate and devastating impact on the quality of our students school-day, their ability to concentrate and perform academically at their best, and on their immediate and long-term general health and well-being.

An alarming trend is emerging in many of our nation’s larger school districts. It is becoming common for companies to cut deals directly with schools in fiscal straits, offering their products at a discount, sometimes with a percentage of sales flowing back to the districts, in order to get directly at their target market, our kids. In 2003, New York City’s school district agreed to give the Snapple company exclusive rights to sell water and fruit juice throughout the district. The deal is estimated to generate up to $225 million depending on the thirsts of the City’s teachers and students. On campuses throughout the nation, kids can choose from Taco Bell, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Coca Cola to appease their daily hunger pains (Woodend, n.d.: 2). According to Eric Scholsser, author of Fast Food Nation, “Fast food chains don’t make an enormous profit selling fast food in the schools, but it’s a way of creating brand loyalty among these kids. And once these kids have the taste for the food, it’s a lifelong taste” (Woodend, n.d.: 1).

This lifelong taste can lead to a lifelong addiction to the very foods fueling our spiraling national obesity numbers. These foods do not necessarily have to measure up to established federal nutritional standards. Even for schools with a strong school lunch program, the presence of these often high sugar, high fat foods and sodas severely undermine the school’s attempt to provide and maintain a healthy food environment for their students and contribute to the epidemic of overweight and obesity in our nation’s youth.

While the federal government has established nutrition standards for school meals, there are no effective standards for competitive foods - foods and beverages sold a la carte, in vending machines, in school stores, or as part of school fund-raisers in the schools. Simultaneously, school food service operations have increased the availability of less healthy foods in an attempt to maintain a financially stable food service business (California Center for Public Health Advocacy, 2002: 1).

The causes of this epidemic are complex and multifaceted, resulting from changes in eating habits (increased caloric consumption) and decreased physical activity (decreased caloric expenditures). Efforts to address these factors must be comprehensive and must engage communities, schools, families and other institutions in supporting healthy diets and physical activity for all children.

Historically, school meals have been developed around the traditional nutritional guidelines such as the Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are based upon the assumption that people eat whole meals and that the content of those meals can “balance out” over time. Perhaps in an earlier era these guidelines served their purpose - but in today’s world of packaged and fast food menus, these guidelines can no longer be looked to for an adequate and balanced nutritional baseline.

Prevention is key

In 1999, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy established mandatory minimum standards for elementary and secondary schools. These standards addressed beverages, fat and saturated fat, sugar, portion sizes, and the availability of fruits and vegetables. They are guided by the following ideas:

* Food is meant to be enjoyed; a healthy diet can include snacks, deserts, side dishes and reasonable sized portions of most of student favorite entrees;

* Schools should be adequately funded, eliminating any incentive schools have to raise funds to support student programs by selling foods and beverages that compromise children’s health

* Schools should be a safe haven where students can learn to make healthy food choices outside the usual unrestricted marketplace with its intense marketing and ready availability of less healthy foods;

* Schools should not contradict health and nutrition messages taught by parents and teachers; and

* Children, schools, manufacturers, and growers can all win by promoting the sale of healthy foods (California Center for Public Health Advocacy, 2002: 2).

These recommendations are solidly founded in the current nutritional research and information and if implemented in the schools will begin to impact and improve the health of the students. As nutrition is improved, over time, the incidence of childhood obesity and its related conditions should diminish.

California created SB677: The California Childhood Obesity Prevention Act of 2003 to establish guidelines to further address these nutritional and health issues (Strategic Alliance, n.d.: 1). SB677 is directly aimed at preventing obesity. It bans soda sales in California schools, emphasizes good nutrition without breaking the bank, and proposes a statewide solution to phase in a statewide soda ban and keep up obesity prevention programs (Oritz, 2003). These measures are all sound nutritional steps which serve as a model both to institutions and to individuals of the most basic step we can all take towards greater health and vitality. Eliminate foods which are empty nutritionally and reach for healthy foods instead.

Many health researchers are now advising that to be healthy we must also consider the quality of the soil that our food grows in. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers kill the vital qualities of the soil. They are found in the foods we eat and have been linked to many health conditions. Healthy, rich, live soil grows nutritionally rich foods. Many nutritional educators encourage eating organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible, both to avoid the dangers of pesticide residues in our foods and to take advantage of the most nutritious foods available.

Considering how many of our nation’s children are involved in the public school systems, public schools is a logical place to start to shift the relationship our kids have to the foods they eat. We should look to bringing organic foods into school cafeterias wherever possible. This is already being done in many schools throughout the nation. In 1994, the Berkeley Unified School District began to support an organic foods and garden program called the Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Middle School. This school garden program has become a model for schools seeking to bring nutritional and environmental awareness onto their campuses both nationally and worldwide.

In the 1999-2000 school year, the Berkeley Unified School District took their innovative approach a step further with the adoption of a district wide Food Policy that emphasized making available organically grown produce in the district lunch program (Martin Luther King Middle School, 2002: 1). Many of these organic foods come from school gardens where children are involved in the production of their own food through the Edible Schoolyard and other school gardens in the district.

Now, parents and school administrators may ask, “How does an Edible Schoolyard tie into childhood obesity?” According to Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant and champion of the locally grown, fresh food movement, we need to be looking for comprehensive solutions for obesity. “People should know that just upgrading food in the cafeteria is not going to do it. Kids eat junk food before they get there… We know from the Edible Schoolyard experience that if they grow it and they cook it, they eat it. They will eat it if they have the pride of making it” (McManus, 2004: 2).

More recently, in July 2004, the Berkeley Unified School District unanimously agreed to approve a district-wide garden/food curriculum that begins in kindergarten and goes through high school. In a revolutionary move, the school district agreed to offer academic credit for lunch (Center for Food and Justice, 2005: 2). The curriculum will be developed with the collaboration of Alice Waters of the Chez Panisse Foundation, the Center for Ecoliteracy, Children’s Hospital of Oakland and Berkeley Unified teachers and staff. This will result in a nutrition curriculum which is to be implemented throughout the district over the next five years. This curriculum aims to reconnect food to culture and agriculture, to teach kids where food comes from and to empower them to become stewards of the land which sustains us all. When the program is complete, every school in Berkeley will have its own garden and full service cafeteria where students will be directly involved in their food production and nutritional needs (Artz, 2004: 1).

The Berkeley Unified School District can be used as a model for what is possible on a district level. On an individual level, many smaller strategies can be implemented in any school district which will begin to impact the awareness of the faculty, staff, students, parents, and community as to the importance of shifting the foods available to our students for their health, well-being, and quality of life - both present and future. A key component in any nutritional education program is to keep to the forefront of the dialogue the idea that every time we reach to put something into our mouths, we have a choice-a choice between something which supports our health and something which doesn’t. All of these little choices through the day add up to what we eat in a day, week, month and year. Who we are and how we feel is a direct result of all of these little choices. The place to begin to make them healthy ones is right now!

Creating a nutritional awareness and education program for the parents, students, staff and administration is a key starting point. Parents can be educated about nutrition and involved through newsletters and information sheets and look to nutrition for the stage of growth and development of the children and changes to come. Every parent wants what’s best for their kids if they know what that is and have the support to provide it. Begin with basic nutritional suggestions.


* Avoid sodas and candy.
* Eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
* Choose sandwiches and fresh salads instead of “fast food”.
* Drink plenty of pure water every day.
* Get at least 20 minutes of exercise every day.
* Take your kids to the market and teach them about their food.
* Have them help in the kitchen. Involve them in healthy menu planning.
* Plant a garden, make a compost pile, watch your food grow.

These shifts in diet and lifestyle are most effective if there is a community of like-minded individuals supporting one another. Clearly, in the case of childhood obesity, prevention is the key and shifting food choices in a healthy direction is a great place to start. Creating community around healthy eating practices and lifestyle choices strengthens the program while creating a group support system which helps to hold the dietary and lifestyle shifts in place.There are many ways to create community which supports healthy lifestyle choices. Join or form a food/garden club in the local school. Start a recycling or composting program. Share food tips through the school newsletters. Gather with other parents and share health and nutrition information. Create agreements to support each other in creating a nourishing community for the children. Look to the Edible Schoolyard model to bring a school garden program into your local schoolyard. Through making every choice we make a choice towards greater health and wellness, we create a bridge into a healthier and more vital future for our children, ourselves, and our communities.About the Author

Karen Saura is a Master Herbalist graduate of The School of Natural Healing, teacher and holistic nutritional counselor. She emphasizes the use of whole, organic foods, nutritive herbs and supplements to promote optimal health, prevent disease, manage chronic illness and to rediscover the joy of healthy eating. Phone consultations are available. To set up an appointment with Karen, leave a message at (925) 286-2445 or e-mail: .


Artz, M. (2004) Organic school lunch program expands in California. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved, February 13, 2005 from

California Center for Public Health Advocacy, (2002). National consensus panel on school nutrition: recommendations for competitive food standards in California schools. Davis, CA: California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

Center for Food and Justice. (2005). Media Coverage. Occidental, CA: Occidental College. Retrieved February 13, 2005, from

Crane, E. (2005) The incredible edible schoolyard. District Administration. Retrieved February 2, 2005, from

Lambert, C. (2004). The way we eat now. Harvard Magazine (May-June 2004), pg. 50- 58, 98.

Martin Luther King Middle School (2002). The edible schoolyard - history. Berkeley, CA: Edible Schoolyard. Retrieved February 2, 2005, from

McManus, R. (2004). Interview: Alice Waters. Sierra Magazine, Nov/Dec2004. Retrieved February 2, 2005, from

Nestle, M., Dixon, L. (2004) Taking Sides: clashing views on controversial issues in food and nutrition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Oritz. (2003). En-act-2003. California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Retrieved February 14, 2005 from

Strategic Alliance (n.d.) Environmental nutrition and activity community enactment strategies: schools. Oakland, CA: Strategic Alliance. Retrieved February 13, 2004 from

Woodend, D. (n.d.) Food for thought. England: Organic Retrieved, February 2, 2005 from

(NOTE: This article is from the old School of Natural Healing newsletter)

October 2004

by Lindsay Wolsey, MH

This newsletter is the result of a mini-feud with my neighbor. It started when I went to Florida for a week. When I came home, Morning Glory had taken over my yard. So I was out in my yard, vainly trying to get the Morning Glory under control. And I was making fairly good progress. My neighbor (not the one with heartburn) comes over, and tells me that I need to weed an area between our yards, because it looks trashy. I looked over at the area, and saw a beautiful specimen of Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower). So I carefully weeded the area, making sure that the Sunflower was still there. The next day, my neighbor told my husband to cut the sunflower down. He told her that she needed to think before she spoke. She then said that she meant that the sunflower made her yard look trashy. As I have walked around our neighborhood, I have seen many different varieties of Sunflower in people’s yards, and along the side of the road. I don’t think that these remarkable plants look trashy—I think they are beautiful.The Back Story

Sunflower gets its Latin name from the Greek—Helios, meaning “sun” and Anthos, meaning “a flower”. These plants are native to North America, Peru and Mexico. Both the Inca’s and the Aztecs worshipped Sunflowers. In the 1500’s, Spanish conquerors sent sunflower specimens to Europe. These plants were used as ornamentals, and some medicinal uses were discovered.

In the 1700’s, an English patent was granted for a process for sunflower oil. In the 1800’s, Sunflowers as food became popular. The Russian Orthodox Church forbade the use of oils during Lent, but conveniently didn’t include sunflower oil. In the 1900’s, Russian Farmers grew over 2 million acres of sunflowers (imagine how trashy that must have looked).

Sunflower production was brought to the United States

During World War II, the use of Sunflower oil increased. There was a shortage of the Russian Mammoth seed, so people began using the American Giant seed instead. The giant sunflowers grow one big flower, which usually gets too heavy to turn and follow the sun. For you DaVinci Code fans, there is an interesting side note about these types of sunflowers—their seeds conform to the Fibonacci sequence.

In 1997, the United States exported $260.4 million in sunflower seeds and oil products.


Sunflowers are a special plant, in that every part of the plant can be used. The seeds, flowers, leafs, stem and root all have uses.


The seeds are eaten by people, birds and livestock. In fact, when sunflower seeds are used in a birdseed mix, the birds will pick out all the sunflower seeds and eat them, and turn up their beaks at the rest of the seed mix. So you need to be cautious about using sunflower seeds with birds! The seeds are also used medicinally, to calm the nerves, and for their antioxidant properties. A quarter cup of sunflower seeds has 120% of the RDA for Vitamin E. Vitamin E has significant anti-inflammatory effects that result in the reduction of symptoms in asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, conditions where free radicals and inflammation play a big role. Vitamin E has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, help decrease the severity and frequency of hot flashes in women going through menopause, and help reduce the development of diabetic complications. Sunflower seeds are also high in magnesium, which helps reduce the severity of asthma, lower high blood pressure, and prevent migraine headaches, as well as reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Insufficient magnesium can thus contribute to high blood pressure, muscle spasms (including spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways symptomatic of asthma), and migraine headaches, as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue.

Sunflower seeds are also a good source of selenium, which inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells. They are also high in B-1, B-5, phosphorous, tryptophan, copper, B-6, manganese, folate, fiber, iron and zinc. Sunflower seeds have no cholesterol. Sprouted sunflower seeds are an excellent source of amino acids and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Sunflower seeds may just be nature’s perfect food.

The sunflower seed oil is used in fuel, cooking, soap, lubricant, and candles.


Sunflower stems have been used to make paper, clothing, as fuel for fire, and to make microscope slide mounts. The stems were also once used to fill life preservers.


The leaves of the sunflower plant have been used a livestock feed. They are also used medicinally. Sunflower leaf tea has been used to treat high fevers, and for lung ailments. Just a few tablespoons of sunflower leaf tea will stop diarrhea—so it is best to use it sparingly. The leaves have both diuretic and expectorant properties.


The flowers on the sunflower have been used to make yellow dyes. The buds can also be cooked like artichokes. The early American settlers would plant sunflowers around their homes, believing that the flowers would ward off malaria.


A poultice of the root can be used for snakebites and spider bites. The roots have also been useful in treating rheumatism. The American Indians would crush the roots to make dressings for wounds.

Medicinal Uses

Arthritis, ague, cardio-vascular problems, chest congestion, chest pain, colds, constipation, coughs, diarrhea, diuretic, eczema, eye sight, fevers, feverish tuberculosis, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, kidney inflammation, low sperm count, malaria, nail biting, pain relief, stop smoking, snake bites, stomach pain, treat worms, ulcers, whooping cough.

In Conclusion

The sunflower that started this is in full bloom. I have been pruning it, and it is growing tall, like the stately plant it is. An interesting thing about sunflowers—the more you prune them, the more flowers they grow. Perhaps my neighbor will change her mind about the sunflower, and perhaps she won’t. Regardless, they will always be welcome in my yard. And the seeds will always be present on my desk.

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