March 29, 2012

Starbucks Gone Buggie!!!!

Giant coffee retailer Starbucks is generating negative buzz with the revelation that some of their drink & food products contain a red food coloring made from squashed insects!  This article is one of many stating that a Starbucks spokesperson confirmed the usage of "cochineal extract — made from the bodies of ground-up cochineal beetles" in at least two well-known Starbucks products:  the Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino, and the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies.  

Apparently this switch to insect parts is part of a Starbucks initiative to become more "natural" and use more "natural" ingredients.  Well, I guess insects are "natural" in the sense that you can go out in the backyard and step on one, and it's "natural" because it's outdoors in a natural setting.  However, adding ground-up insects to your "fancy" treats is pretty gross, especially when Starbucks could use something else for the red food coloring, like red beets, black carrots or purple sweet potatoes.  These vegetables are natural, too, and I'm sure can even be grown organic.  If Starbucks wants to become more eco-friendly and natural, while appealing to the health-conscious masses, then perhaps they should get a clue and use organic produce in their products, instead of disgusting squashed up insects!  Yuck!  

Now to add another twist to this interesting situation:  do you know what Vegans and Jews have in common?  No, this is not the start of some weird racial joke.  Vegans hate what Starbucks is doing, because insects are part of the animal kingdom and certainly NOT vegan, and Jews cannot eat insects because they are not Kosher.  So there are a lot of angry people out there right now, who may stop buying Starbucks' products altogether.  

I occasionally give my patronage to Starbucks and I'm not ashamed of it.  But I very much prefer the smaller, locally-owned coffee shops, because they typically have nicer quality of products, more options (like more flavors), they remember me and my order, and they offer financial incentives like frequent customer punch cards, reduced-price daily drink specials, and sometimes they give me a discount just because they're feeling particularly happy or generous that day.  Does Starbucks EVER do anything like that to keep me returning?  Nope, never.  As a matter of fact, Starbucks insists on charging me an extra 60 cents just for soy milk instead of dairy milk.  I've suspected for some time that I might be slightly lactose-intolerant, because sometimes ice cream and milk make my stomach upset.  So I always choose to avoid that by drinking soy milk.  But Starbucks punishes me for my lactose-intolerance (something that is NOT my fault and I wish I didn't have to deal with) by charging me MORE for soy milk.  That is stupid, not to mention rude, because soy milk does not cost any more to purchase than dairy milk does.  So jacking up the price for soy milk makes no sense and causes me to choose to purchase my coffee treat at someplace other than Starbucks, a place that does NOT charge me extra for soy milk.  

On a related note, my husband is deathly allergic to dairy and thus dairy milk, so he does not enjoy coffee and really does not care for tea.  He enjoys hot apple cider, which Starbucks claims to carry.  But Starbucks' apple "cider" is not really cider, it is plain old apple JUICE, in all its over-processed, over-sugared, over-filtered glory.  Starbucks buys apple "juice" and passes it off as apple "cider," but there is a huge difference between the two (in harvest process, quality, health benefits, and taste), and so my husband no longer buys his apple "juice" from Starbucks, who is simply trying to be cheap and cut corners.  You can read a brief article here about some differences between apple juice and apple cider.  So we are just an example of yet two more customers Starbucks has lost.  

What about you?  What do you think of this new development of squashed-up insects as food coloring?  Is it gross?  Do you not care?  Let me know!

image credit:

March 28, 2012

Lemon Water: A Metabolism Increaser?

I've been reading a lot of health articles lately that talk about various ways of revving your metabolism. And increasing your metabolism is important if you're trying to burn fat and lose weight.

Your metabolism regulates how quickly your body burns calories, so knowing how to manage your metabolism is important to many people, including those trying to lose weight and diabetics, who depend on keeping their blood sugar stable to avoid metabolic highs and lows. Some of these ideas for increasing metabolic rate sound kooky, but others sound interestingly enough to pursue. An idea that is especially intriguing to me, mostly because of its ease of use, is putting squirts of lemon juice in drinking water to help rev your metabolism.

This article here speaks of putting lemon juice in water or tea to help speed up metabolism and thus burn more calories. But how much does lemon water supposedly raise your metabolism? I think that no one knows for sure, and perhaps it's only a negligible amount, but a lot of people swear that it makes a measurable difference. Others, however, (and this certainly seems like the more logical, convincing argument) state that there is no proof whatsoever that lemon water boosts your metabolism or helps you lose weight in the least.

So does lemons and/or lemon water (or tea) have any real effect on your metabolism? Is it worth adding lemons to your daily diet, for any reason?

Well, there seems to be one thing that both camps agree on: lemons contain Ascorbic Acid, which aids in digestion and is also a diuretic, which decreases bloating and water retention. So, if using lemon water, you may lose weight at first because your bowels will get clear. Lemons also contain high levels of Vitamin C, which aids in immunity and helps rid your body of free radicals. So the jury is still out on lemon water actually helping to increase your metabolism.   You can read an informative article here about the many health benefits of lemons and lemon juice, and how other cultures have used lemons for health for centuries. 

Most research says that it will not increase your metabolism, but it may still be a beneficial choice for you to add to your healthy eating regimen. Since I tend to have sluggish bowels, I have decided to drink lemon water to help me alleviate bloating and stay regular. I have only been drinking lemon water for a couple days now, but so far it seems to be working in keeping my bowels functioning well.

image credit: Lemon, Copyright © 2009 Thomas Sawyer,

March 20, 2012

My Inspiration: New Running Shoes!

I had just gotten back into a regular running when the Great Seattle "Snowpacalypse" of 2012 happened a couple months ago.  Because Seattle does not use salt on the roads (for fear of contaminated runoff entering Puget Sound), this meant that, even after the roads became passable about three days later, that the sidewalks, curbs, and front yards sat stagnant, piled high with mounds of sticky white fluff.  The sidewalks were buried under massive snow, and the roads were mushy & slick.  So I could not exercise outdoors for quite some time, which, of course, meant that my newly re-acquired running routine ended practically before it began. 
Then, during the two meager attempts I made at running a couple weeks later, the arch in my right foot burned like it was on fire, and my toes on both feet felt like they were slamming into the toeboxes of my shoes. 

Needless to say, I desperately needed new running shoes!  The old Nikes I wore had been around for about a year, probably longer, and my right foot had been hurting every time I ran, even sometimes while wearing normal shoes.  But, how could I possibly afford new running shoes (typically around $100 for a decent pair), when my husband is still out of work, we're depending on my in-laws for basic financial needs, and I'm working three days a week doing church childcare?  The answer:  I had to wait until that glorious day when we FINALLY sold our house back in Cincinnati, Ohio.  And, praise the Lord, it finally sold and we were so very blessed because we made enough of a profit from it that I was able to completely pay off my two student loans!  I owed so much in school debt that we would have been saddled with this debt for probably the next thirty years to come, so I am SO THANKFUL to God for bringing the right buyers for our house!

Okay, back to running shoes.  The picture above is my new pair of Asics running shoes.  I had never worn Asics before, but had done some research online and discovered that, apparently, lots of podiatrists recommend Asics to clients with foot/arch problems.  I also discovered that Asics embeds some stability support in most of their shoes, so they contain, by default, a good level of stability straight out of the box!  This is huge for me. 

I had been to a specialty running store in Cincinnati, and was promptly told that I was a severe over-pronator whose arches practically collapsed ENTIRELY with each foot fall, thus I needed the most stability-formulated shoe on the market, which conveniently, were also the most expensive (of course!).  They also talked me into buying some supportive in-soles to put in my shoes, which cost another $45.  See a pattern here? 

Those shoes gave me crippling shin splints so consistently, that I was forced to stop running for a month while my body healed.  I never, EVER wore them again, and decided to go in the complete opposite direction, buying the most cushion-y shoes I could afford:  Nike Air Gel.  These shoes were great for a few months, but then the cushion wore out, they stretched out, and my feet began sliding around inside them.  So those got demoted as well, and I now use them only for walking. 

So now that I've discovered Asics, which come very highly recommended, I hope that my search has not been in vain!  I've only worn my new shoes three times so far, but they do seem to be the perfect balance of cushion and support for me.  And my arch has not hurt at all, so YAY for that!  And, perhaps the BEST part about all of this?  I found my new, super-cute Asics on sale at DSW for around $75.  I will never pay $100 for "too much" shoe ever again!