Last month, the FDA ruled that trans fats are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food and gave manufacturers three years to remove them. Companies have been required to list trans fat content on their products since 2006, and while many consumers are happy to see “Trans fats 0 grams per serving” on food labels, that doesn’t mean the product doesn’t contain any partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). This is one way trans fats are still lurking in your food.
Companies which produce foods containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can round that number down to zero. The American Heart Association recommends that based on a 2,000 calorie diet, individuals should consume less than 2 grams of trans fats per day (preferably 0 grams), so the lack of transparency on the part of manufacturers makes it easier for consumers to reach and even exceed two grams of trans fats each day. 
The best way to avoid trans fats is to know where they’re lurking. Here’s a breakdown of the favorite “hiding places” of PHOs:
1. Baked Goods
Many pie crusts contain vegetable shortening, which may contain PHOs. Boxed pancake and waffle mixes, boxed cake mixes, and packaged cakes and sweet rolls often contain trans fats as well. Your best bet is to make these items from scratch.
2. Products with a Creamy Texture
Artificial coffee creamer, packaged icing, “frozen dairy desserts” that companies try to pass off as ice cream – they’re all mouth-watering, but none of them are heart-healthy. Again, homemade is always better than packaged, and a little half-and-half in your coffee is a lot safer than the multitude of flavored non-dairy items you find on store shelves.
Microwave popcorn, frozen fried foods, and some of the most popular cookie snacks are the worst offenders when it comes to snacks containing trans fats.
If you see that a product claims not to contain any trans fats, search the label for “partially hydrogenated oil.” If you find those three magic words, you know you’re getting trans fats.
Stick to the whole foods items in the produce, meat, and dairy departments. Purchase items that are as close to their original state as possible. Trans fats are the furthest thing from natural; the cholesterol-boosting substances are created by adding hydrogen to a liquid oil molecule, which turns the liquid oil into a solid.
Lastly, cook your own food and avoid partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, partially hydrogenated palm oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and partially hydrogenated canola oil, which are loaded with trans fats.
Eating healthfully requires a little more effort, but hopefully that translates into a longer, healthier life, which is a good trade-off.
The land of fun in the sun has had a spate of challenges lately such as a GMO mosquito release in the Florida Keys, dengue fever, and the infamous chagas disease outbreak.
Now the great state of Florida has an annual outbreak of leprosy to deal with. The leprosy is being spread by armadillos which love the hot weather and bug-filled terrain of the Sunshine State.
Using their long, sticky tongues, armadillos forage for ants, termites, and beetles, as well as other insects. They also enjoy a hearty diet of grubs and worms. Herein lies the crux of the matter with regard to the many Floridians who come into contact with armadillos.
During dry spells, armadillos are well-known throughout Florida for getting into back yards and literally tearing them up. The longer the drought, the harder the ground which forces the armadillos to dig deeper for their food. It’s not uncommon to find 10, 20, or 30 holes dug into the lawn when an armadillo is on the prowl in your neighborhood. They can inflict more damage to a well-manicured lawn than anything you’ve ever seen before.
Given this recurring state of affairs, there are countless attempts to capture armadillos in Florida, often by extremely frustrated homeowners. This process can often bring armadillos in direct contact with people on their own property. Most homeowners are unaware that armadillos carry leprosy, and therefore they unknowingly expose themselves to the offending bacterium by actually handling the armadillos.
“The first connections between the disease and armadillos were established in a 2011 paper entitled “Problematic Zoonotic Leprosy in the Southern United States.” Genome resequencing of three US patients with leprosy and a nine-banded armadillo found the infective strains to be almost identical, proving that zoonosis—diseases that can be passed from animals to humans—was at play.” 
There is another little known fact about armadillos that ought to be considered by the unsuspecting Florida homeowner and motorist. Although slow-moving, armadillos have various defensive measures.
In addition to rolling up into a very tight ball to frustrate predators, they are also known to leap straight up into the air as high as 4 to 5 feet. That’s why so many armadillos are killed crossing the hot Florida pavement. Their instinct when danger presents is to bound straight up into the air in order to “shock and awe” their predators. This is exactly what they will do when a truck or car drives over them. They are then killed by the impact with the undercarriage of the fast-moving vehicle.
Again, unsuspecting motorists may take initiative to help armadillos cross the street. They may also try to help injured ones on the roadside unaware that such contact can trigger a case of leprosy. An exposure to a leprosy-carrying armadillo, incidentally, can actually take up to twenty years to manifest as the full-blown disease.
“Leprosy is caused by mycobacterium laprae, a slow growing bacillus, and can be transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth of people with severe, untreated cases of the disease. The glacial rate of growth of the bacteria means that symptoms may not materialize anywhere from four to 20 years after the disease has been contracted.” 
There is another factor in the rising rate of leprosy in Florida. There are those locals in the rural counties where hunting for game is done as another source of food. This practice significantly increases the risk of leprosy because of the whole process of handling and preparing the animal for dinner.
The best way to avoid leprosy is to avoid all contact with armadillos. They are quite shy by nature and will surely avoid human contact, even if they don’t run away initially. Because their eyesight is so poor, they rely heavily on their acute sense of smell. Hence, it is easy to misunderstand their failure to run as friendliness.
Moral of the story: Best not to make friends with an armadillo.
Need something besides toxic sunscreen to protect against skin cancer? How about the herb, milk thistle?
Milk thistle is already well-known for its ability to help the liver detoxify itself, but evidently it has several important effects on our skin, too. Milk thistle protects against photo-aging, or UV damage, and effectively blocks both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) induced skin carcinogens. Studies at the University of Colorado Cancer Center found thatthe extract of the milk thistle plant was exceptional at preventing skin cancer and photo-aging.
It’s a compound called silibinin in milk thistle that does all the hard work to protect you from cancer. Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, co-program leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CU Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said about one of the U of C studies:
“When you have a cell affected by UV radiation, you either want to repair it or kill it so that it cannot go on to cause cancer. We show that silibinin does both.”
Agarwal goes on to explain:
“When you take human skin cells – keratinocytes – and treat them with silibinin, nothing happens. It’s not toxic. But when you damage these cells with UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin kills the cells.”
In yet another study published by the same authors in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis, researchers showed that instead of beneficially killing cells damaged by UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin protects human skin cells from damage by UVB radiation, which makes up about 5 percent of the sun’s radiation reaching Earth.
The study abstract reads:
“In view of the fact that an enhanced endogenous IL-12 level could effectively remove UVB-caused DNA damage and associated skin cancer, our findings suggest that the use of silibinin in UVB-damaged human skin would also be a practical and translational strategy to manage solar radiation-caused skin damages as well as skin cancer.”
So not only does milk thistle protect you once your skin is damaged, it helps to make sure that your skin doesn’t become cancerous in the first place. I’m adding some milk thistle to my beach bag today – how about you?
Chicago probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of farming, but the city’s Pullman Park district will soon be home to the largest rooftop greenhouse in the world. Once construction is complete, the behemoth 75,000 square foot green space, built and operated by Gotham Greens, will be larger than a football stadium and even some city blocks.
AsBusiness Insiderputs it, “For some perspective on the size of the greenhouse: the average size of a city block in many parts of the U.S.—including Portland, Oregon and Houston, Texas—is 67,600 square feet. An NFL football field is 57,600 square feet. This greenhouse is larger than all of these things.”
According to a Gotham Greens, the greenhouse will produce up to 1 million pounds of sustainably grown, pesticide-free produce annually. The harvest will also be distributed through local retailers, restaurants, farmer’s markets and community groups. Since the greens are grown locally, it eliminates the carbon emissions and miles that food traditionally travels to get to Chicago’s plates.
“This is an exciting opportunity to bring fresh, healthy produce year-round to Pullman, which is underserved for food, and going through an exciting resurgence in economic development,” Gotham Greens CEO Viraj Puri told DNAInfo. The rooftop farm is also expected to hire 40 workers to help grow the produce, the site reported.
The greenhouse features a slew of innovative farming technologies. With its soil-free hydroponic system, “Gotham Greens’ irrigation methods use 20 times less land and 10 times less water and eliminate the need for pesticide use and fertilizer runoff,” the company said. A computer-controlled system also regulates temperatures, irrigation needs and other variables,Business Insider noted.
Method’s so-called South Side Soapbox, contains a 230-foot wind turbine as well as three 35 x 35-foot solar tracking trees that follows the sun’s path to maximize energy generation. According to Business Insider, this clean energy helps generate “a third” of the building’s energy needs.
“Gotham Greens shares our goal of using business as a force for social and environmental good,” Drew Fraser, CEO of Method, said in the press release. “We are thrilled to partner with a like-minded organization, who has demonstrated that the innovative, adaptive use of urban space can make a significant impact on local communities.”
When the greenhouse is finally built, it will also help insulate the building to keep costs down even further, improve urban air quality and reduce stormwater runoff.
“We need to use our urban spaces more efficiently,” Method’s chief greenskeeper Saskia Van Gendt told Business Insider. “Rooftop greenhouses are a representation of a model of doing that.”
It’s a stroke of genius to bring these eco-minded companies together. As EcoWatch previously reported, Gotham Greens now has four state of the art greenhouses where its workers grow organic greens year round. Its flagship greenhouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, was built back in 2010 and was the first commercial scale rooftop greenhouse in the U.S, according to the company. Method, known for its colorfully pleasing soap bottles and for introducing theworld’s first bottle made of ocean waste, formulates its products with naturally derived, biodegradable ingredients.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel only had nice words to say about the partnership. “Method has been instrumental in supporting the revitalization happening in Pullman, and the addition of this sustainable greenhouse means that more Chicago residents will have access to fresh, healthy foods grown in the neighborhood,” Emanuel said in the release. “I commend both Method and Gotham Greens on their commitment to Pullman and look forward to seeing the results of this partnership come to fruition.”
SolarCity is first offering this service to SMBs in California with plans to expand to the east coast and other territories early next year. The company said it will initially design solar energy system sizes between 30 – 500 kilowatts of generation capacity for SMBs with approximately 5,000–50,000 square feet of available flat roof space.
With more than 28 million small and medium-sized businesses in the country—or 99 percent of American businesses—it’s a move that’s tapping into a very large and potentially profitable market that’s worth at least $10 billion a year, according to U.S. News.
However, very few local businesses have been able to harness the sun’s energy affordably.
Why? As SolarCity pointed out in a statement, “Solar projects for small and medium sized businesses have traditionally been very difficult to finance because SMBs do not have the formal investment grade credit ratings of large corporations, and also have no commercial equivalent to the FICO scores that are often the basis of consumer financing.”
SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive also told Fortune, “The truth is that small and medium businesses have been neglected by the solar industry over the past five years.”
To solve this problem, SolarCity will finance the upfront cost of panels to SMBs like it would under a traditional solar lease or power purchase agreement. These solar contracts are usually cheaper (and much cleaner) than the electricity produced by the local utility.
SolarCity is also utilizing the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which allows business to pay the solar payment on its property tax bill. PACE, a popular program which exists in about a dozen states, provides building owners the financing for upgrades on energy efficiency, renewable energy (like solar panels) and water conservation. The Golden State recently allowed businesses to use the PACE program through the state’s CaliforniaFIRSTinitiative.
SolarCity, the largest solar installer in the country, will also tap into its vast network of local installers to fit panels onto SMB’s roofs instead of going through a more expensive third party, which will cut costs even further.
The solar company also boasts that its lightweight solar panel mounting system can “fit 20 to 50 percent more solar panels on each roof surface” and allows workers to install panels significantly faster.
Overall, SMBs will pay 5 to 25 percent less for solar than for power from their local utility under SolarCity’s new service, the company claims.
“When you fly into any airport, you see these industrial areas—what are small warehouses with small businesses in them—and there’s no solar,” Rive told U.S. News. “We now have a solution that makes it cost-effective.”