Interview with Sandra Powers
Organic for Health
iUniverse, Inc. (2008)
Reviewed by for Reader Views (1/08)
Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is pleased to be joined by Sandra Powers, who will discuss her new book “Organic for Health.”
Sandra Powers is here to tell us about her amazing journey as a survivor of breast cancer, and how she changed her lifestyle to eating healthy organic food.
Tyler: Welcome, Sandra. I’m excited to have you here today. We all want to be healthier, and I know you have an amazing story to tell us about how to be healthy using organic foods. To begin, will you tell us a little bit about your journey as a cancer survivor and how your interest in organic foods began?
Sandra: Hello, Tyler. I am happy to be here with you. My journey began in August 2005 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and liver disease. I had a mastectomy for the breast cancer, but I could not undergo any further cancer treatment because of my unhealthy liver. Every three months for the next year, I had a liver function test and the results were always the same—my liver was not doing well. My doctor was very concerned and wanted to begin treatment for my liver. A year after cancer surgery and I was still not doing well. I thought it was time to try to heal myself. I became my own guinea pig. I researched everything I could find on cancer recurrence and liver disease. Certain words kept popping up: toxic pesticides, toxic fertilizers, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, vitamin and mineral supplements. So, this was where I began: with organic foods and stopping the multiple vitamin and mineral supplements.
Tyler: Sandra, will you define for us exactly what qualifies as an organic food?
Sandra: Better yet, I will let the U.S. Department of Agriculture define organic food for you. The U.S.D.A. has mandated that no organic food can contain added hormones, antibiotics, synthetic pesticides, irradiated components, genetically modified organisms, or reprocessed sewage. What does this mean? It means conventionally grown foods may. Scary, isn't it?
Tyler: Why does the U.S.D.A. make this differentiation? Why not just outlet such processes in all food?
Sandra: Believe it or not, Tyler, these high standards set by the U.S.D.A. for organic food were at the behest of organic operators themselves. The largest organic producers wanted a national definition of organic produce rather than the different state rules. The first U.S.D.A. guidelines were much looser when they were first published in the mid-1990's. After receiving thousands of letters from longtime organic farmers and consumers, the U.S.D.A. put in place the definition in use today. It is highly unlikely that the interests of the huge agri-business corporations would lobby for such costly standards.
Tyler: How have your eating habits changed since you were first diagnosed with breast cancer?
Sandra: The first eating change I made after being diagnosed with breast cancer was switching to organic milk. Conventionally raised dairy cows are injected with hormones to increase milk production. This increase in milk production requires frequent milking, which in turn leads to udder irritation and infections that require antibiotics. Unfortunately, the infections don't always completely clear up, so the government permits a certain amount of pus to remain in the milk. Need I say more? Conventionally raised chickens are given antibiotics, growth enhancers and feed additives. Organic chicken was my second switch, followed by organic eggs. Then I began replacing my fruits and vegetables with organic fruits and vegetables to eliminate the toxic pesticides and fertilizers from my diet. I noticed how much better I felt in just a few weeks and my liver began to heal. In six months, my liver returned to normal, my overall cholesterol dropped 40 points, my good cholesterol went up 40 points, even my bad cholesterol dropped a few points. My doctor was so excited about my tests results he gave me a copy "to frame."
Tyler: What kind of expense is involved in eating organic foods? Did you grocery bill increase significantly?
Sandra: Organic food costs more than conventionally grown food because organic food costs more to produce. There is a lesser yield in crops with safer pesticides and fertilizers. Permitting dairy cows to produce milk the natural way and letting beef and chicken grow without enhancers, antibiotics, and hormones take time. However, if we factor in the benefits of healthier eating over a period of time, the costs are probably competitive. But, how do we gain the great health benefits of organic food today without bankrupting our food budget? We slowly make the switch. We start with the foods we eat the most often like milk, eggs, and chicken. These foods have some of the highest concentrations of added hormones, antibiotics, and additives. We receive the healthiest benefits immediately. These foods also have the best competitive prices because they have store brands. Watch for sales. Again, buy the store brand of organics fresh, canned, or frozen.
Tyler: “Organic for Health” warns us about some of the dangers to our food, such as pesticides. Why in this modern day do we have to worry about our daily food being dangerous to our bodies?
Sandra: The answer is intensive farming. Intensive farming is concerned with productivity. To achieve high productivity, powerful pesticides, powerful fertilizers, additives and growth regulators are used. While intensive farming does provide large quantities of relatively cheap food, it is at the cost of harmful effects to our health and environment. The quest for profits at all costs extends to our milk and poultry, as we have already mentioned.
Tyler: One thing you mention that you did besides going onto organic food was to stop all multivitamins and supplements? Why did you do so?
Sandra: Good question, Tyler. We are bombarded with the health benefits of mutiple vitamins and minerals when actually they are doing more harm than good. The liver is a storage unit. Vitamin A and Vitamin E especially are a problem for the liver with overdosing. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study on the vitamin supplements A and E. The study found daily intake of Vitamin A supplements increased death by 16%, Vitamin E, by 4%. The Annuals of Internal Medicine published a study on Vitamin E supplements. They found that the daily intake of Vitamin E in amounts of 400 IU for one year or more increased the risk of death. In fact, the researchers went so far as to recommend that all sellers of vitamins should consider removing Vitamin E supplements of 400 IU or more from the stores. These are just two of the many reports on the harmful effects of multiple supplements. It is much healthier to receive your vitamins and minerals from organic food.
Tyler: Stress is a major cause of sickness for the body. How does organic food help the body deal with stress?
Sandra: First, stress is a killer. Stress is either the cause or intensifier of many diseases. Two important ways to deal with stress is meditation and organic food. Daily meditation rids the body of much of its unwanted stress. I have a chapter in the book to help you learn how to meditate. Meditation is a healer of the mind while organic food is the healer of the body. Organic food is able to deal with everyday stress by keeping your immune system in tip-top shape. It is able to do this because organic foods contain more antioxidants and immune boosters than conventionally grown foods. In a recent study reported by BBC News, organic fruits have higher antioxidant levels than conventionally grown foods. Rutgers University tested conventionally grown vegetables with organically grown vegetables. The organically grown vegetables had much higher amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium than the conventionally grown vegetables.
Tyler: Sandra, will you tell us a little bit about the anti-oxidant recipes in the book?
Sandra: The recipes in “Organic for Health” are packed with antioxidants and immune boosters. I developed and adapted the recipes to give maximum health benefits by using organic ingredients. Following each recipe is a paragraph explaining the health benefits. Here are some of the health benefits listed in the Pineapple Bread recipe: "Organic pineapple juice stimulates the kidneys and aids in removing toxic elements from the body. Organic walnuts assist in lowing bad cholesterol. Olive oil helps reduce arthritis-related inflammation because of its antioxidants."
Tyler: How long have you now been free from cancer, and what specifically are you doing to prevent its recurrence?
Sandra: Cancer is a frightening diagnosis. Every cancer survivor tries to have a positive attitude to fight recurrence but a positive attitude has little effect on the prognosis of cancer. What a cancer survivor has to do is research his cancer and clearly work out a plan to optimize his health. I have a 20% chance of cancer recurrence. By eating organic foods—which has already healed my liver—and meditating daily to keep stress to my body in check, I am confident I am going to live a long and productive life. It's been 2 and 1/2 years since I've been diagnosed with cancer and liver disease and I feel better than I have in years.
Tyler: Have you received any response from readers or even friends and family members prior to the book’s publication? Have they reported better health as a result of following your instructions or trying any of the recipes in the book?
Sandra: My daughters are eating organic foods and have more energy. My grandsons are also on an organic diet. They are 3 and 7 years old so we have no testimonials from them, but I'm sure they are reaping the rewards. My nephew, who has liver disease, reports since stopping his multiple vitamins and eating mostly organic, his energy levels have improved. I am pleased that the reader reviews on Amazon.com are quite favorable about the recipes.
Tyler: Do you have any advice for the parent who has previously been liberal with sweets and junk food get their child to adapt to organic food?
Sandra: My daughter had no trouble with her children's taste buds when she switched from conventional foods to organics. Organic food tastes so much better than conventionally grown food, especially the fruit. Sweets and junk food? Organic cookies are delicious. Chocolate? Buy the dark chocolate with antioxidants. My grandsons love it.
Tyler: What advice would you give to busy people who eat on the go and who know they should eat better, but find themselves in the drive-thru at McDonalds? Where should they go to find organic food? What if they don’t have time to cook? What should they do?
Sandra: Tough question, Tyler. I would first say, "Don't obsess." What did you have for breakfast? Toast and coffee? Spread that toast with organic butter or organic jelly. The coffee, Newman's Organic Coffee. Cereal? There are lots of organic cereals to choose from. Make sure you use organic milk. Lunch? McDonalds? Okay. Cancel out the "bad stuff" at lunch with a snack of organic fruit. Dinner time have an organic salad and one of the recipes in Main Dishes. Most of the recipes don't take much preparation time. If you really don't want to "cook", grill an organic steak, or an organic beef patty, or open a can of organic soup to have with your organic salad. Check out your favorite grocery store for organic foods. You'll be surprised at the offerings. It is beginning to rival conventional foods even down to organic frozen dinners.
I was once asked about that popular catchphrase of the 1970's, "You are what you eat." I altered that to "Your health depends on what you eat." There is an old saying, "Every human being is the author of his own health." It all depends on the kind of book you want to write.
Tyler: Sandra, where does one find organic food? Do grocery stores have special sections, or does one need to visit a food co-op?
Sandra: When I first started eating organic food, I was forced to do a lot of internet shopping. In the last two years, mainstream grocery stores have exploded with organics. Organic fresh fruits and vegetables are in special sections. Canned organics are usually mixed in with the other canned goods. Cereals can be in an organic section or mixed in with the other cereals. It seems most stores have special sections for organics but they also intermingle, especially with organic flour, organic sugar, organic jams and jellies, and organic peanut butters. Again, look for the sales.
Tyler: What do you think is the future of the food industry? Will organic food ever become mainstream? Does the U.S.D.A need to do more, or will the needs for profits continue to make our conventional food dangerous for us?
Sandra: The future of the food industry will always be concerned with profit and that is why so much of organic produce is now brought to you by such conventional companies as General Mills, Heinz, and Philip Morris's Kraft. The large conventional food processors are entering the organic market because it's good business. Organics are the only sector of the food industry experiencing sustained growth. Organics are already becoming mainstream. What is more mainstream than Wal-Mart where I buy my Gold Medal Organic Flour?
I believe our food supply will always consist of conventionally grown food and organically grown food. While organics will become more competitive with conventional foods, they will always cost a little bit more, just like frozen broccoli florets cost more than brocccoli with the stems. It is up to the consumer to make the choice.
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Sandra. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information may be found there?
Sandra: Thank you, Tyler, for having me. It's been fun. My website, www.organicforhealthsite.com, has continuing changing information about organics and new recipes. If you have any questions or comments for me, click on my email on the website and I will be sure to get back to you. Thank you, again, and good health.