The past few days I've felt some relief from the hot, sticky days of summer. I don't do a lot of cooking when it's steamy out, so I'm ready to get cookin' again. During the summer we have a lot of dinners that my family likes to call snackin' dinners. I just put out a buffet of fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of cheeses and dips, and some wonderful crispy artisan bread that was made in someone else's kitchen.
I had a HUGE basket of tomatoes staring me down, so here's a quick dressing that I tossed together to go along with one of our snackin' dinners. Delicious!
Can the environment affect your DNA?

In 2007, before I started my journey to eat better and take care of my health, I watched this program on PBS and tucked the information away in the back of my mind. When I started drastically changing my diet my mind kept returning to this program and I began to wonder about the affects of the chemicals in and on our food. I began to think about our genes as our "hardware" and the epigenome as our "software". You are born with the genes you have, but can the environment affect your software, the signals that turn those genes on and off? This PBS special completely changed my opinion about food and our environment. I have watched people drench their lawns in chemical sprays and days later their children are rolling through the grass. How is this affecting our children? I've heard people claim chemicals are safe, only to be recalled, or banned after a problem occurs. Take a look at history. You had DDT, PCB's, BPA, and now atrazine. Boric acid was a food additive until it was found to be toxic. There are now links to hyperactivity and artificial food dyes, and a link to nitrates and cancer. Recently in California manufacturers of soda were going to be required to put a cancer label on their soft drinks, because the "caramel color" is a known carcinogen. Instead of reformulating the soda and removing the coloring agent, they decided to lower the level and make it within the legal limits, thus not requiring the cancer label. Why not remove it, or find another option? I'm still shocked that the caramel color was not produced by the heating of sugar! 

I spoke with a doctor at the University of Minnesota and she told me that during conception there is an average of 20 to 30 genetic changes, or mutations that occur in utero. Without these genetic variations evolution would not occur. These can be things as simple as the size, or shape of your ear, to things that are far more serious that affect your health. Researchers are finding that many environmental factors can cause these changes. The things you eat while pregnant, whether you smoke, or drink, your exposure to chemicals, etc.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript 'The Ghost In Your Genes':

MOSHE SZYF (McGill University): We have this very, very static genome, very hard to change. It could be only changed by really dramatic things like nuclear explosions or, you know, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. On the other hand, we have the dynamic environment that changes all the time. And so what there is here is an interface between the highly dynamic world around us and the highly static genome that we have. Epigenome is an in-between creature, built in a way, to respond to changes around us.

Here is the link to the transcript put out by PBS in 2007. I must warn you, if you don't find this fascinating it will be a very, very slow read, but I did touch on a few of the highlights above.
Here is a link to a video by the same name, but it is a BBC production about Epigenetics.

On a side note, I recently found out about a startup that will map your DNA for $299. The site is and the co-founder is Anne Wojcicki who is married to Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. I've been poking around the site and it is really interesting, including the work they've been doing on Parkinson's research. I'm not sure what implications it may have psychologically to know what risks you may have, but it may give a person the power to make lifestyle changes. Maybe I'll have the courage to do it someday.

I was talking to someone that works as a personal trainer and she was drinking something in a cool, blue, water splashed terra pack. It looked very tropical and made me think of sitting on a beach in Honolulu, with the cool, salty air blowing through my sun bleached locks... ;-)

Back to reality. I asked her what it was and she was so excited that it was coconut water! I remember drinking coconut water as a child, but we referred to it as coconut milk, which I now found out was wrong. I decided to go home and check out this new super drink.

As far as I can tell, coconut water seems to have the same benefits as Gatorade, but without all the artificial stuff. Coconut water also appears to be something that I wouldn't need. I heard a Doctor recently talking about the fact that most people, when exercising, don't need Gatorade, but they need water for hydration instead. He said the average person does not exercise long, or hard enough and I would definitely fall into that category of people that do not need coconut water.

Here's a quick run down I found on WebMd: 
It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

Gatorade also contains things like wood rosin, vegetable oil and artificial colors. So, if I were running 90 minutes a day and running in marathons then I think my choice would be coconut water, but for people like me who participate in light workouts then I think I'll stick with the best hydration method on the planet...water! I am going to talk to my Doctor about the possibility of using it during a virus when you're dehydrated. In the past I've been told to use Gatorade, so the coconut water would probably be a better alternative.

Just as a side note, this post I found is worth reading and highly entertaining. The title is 'Gatorade is Stupid' and he refers to Gatorade as, "...a fecal bomb disguised as a health drink...". Good stuff  and well said. ;-)
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