What can you do to help the bees?

On a recent trip (sponsored in part by the National Honey Board), I had a chance to rub wings with some professional beekeepers. Like many of you, I am concerned about the plight of our honey bees (and, by extension, all of us). Did you know that plants pollinated by honey bees and other pollinators make up about one-third of our diet?

Bees and other pollinators are struggling against many challenges, including decreasing food and water supplies as well as pathogens and pollutants that threaten the health of the hive. I wanted to pass along this list of four things we can all do to support the health of honey bees and pollinators.

  • Plant bee friendly flowers and herbs in your garden or yard. Bees are particularly fond of blue and purple flowers that are on the small side.
  • Put a shallow pan of fresh water out for bees to drink. Putting small rocks or marbles in the water gives them something to land on.
  • If you must apply pesticides or other chemicals to your lawn or garden, try to apply them at dusk, when bees and other pollinators are less likely to be visiting the flowers. (Happily, this is actually the most effective time to spray for mosquitoes).
  • Spread the word by sharing these bee-friendly tips with your neighbors and friends. Or, if you’re so inclined, learn more about bee-keeping, a hobby that many of my friends have taken up and find enormously satisfying (and not just because of the honey!)

Learn more by visiting the Honey Bee Health Coalition.

Why you shouldn’t drink sweetened beverages with meals

One of the reasons I suggest drinking only water (or unsweetened tea or coffee) with meals is that calories you drink don’t contribute at all to your sense of satiation.  In other words, you’re not likely to eat any less to compensate for those extra calories you’re drinking. They just get added to the total.

Conversely, replacing a caloric beverage with water is an easy way to subtract a few hundred calories from a meal without noticing a thing!

But here’s another log to throw on that fire: A small but meticulously done study finds that drinking a sweetened beverage along with a meal substantially increases the amount of fat that gets stored from the meal. Who needs that? The effect is magnified when the meal is high in protein, such as drinking a soda with a burger or chicken.

Interestingly, the study did not see the same effect with artificially-sweetened beverages. Although I recommend limiting your intake of diet soda, this would be one scenario where a diet soda might be a better choice than a regular soda (but still not as good as water).

Are flavored waters OK to drink?

Laila writes:

“I’ve noticed that flavored carbonated waters have become very popular. Many are tasty and its feels like a healthy alternative for soda. Is there any concern about drinking them regularly, other than cost?”

The carbonation itself is not a problem. (See Is Carbonated Water Bad For You?) And as long as the beverages are not sweetened or artificially sweetened, there’s nothing to fear on that front.

The one potential fly in the ointment is that the fruit essences used to flavor the waters can be acidic enough to harm tooth enamel.  An occasional glass is not a concern–especially as an alternative to soda. But sipping on flavored waters all day long could potentially do a number on your teeth.

Using a straw and rinsing your mouth with plain water (or chewing a piece of sugarless gum) after enjoying a glass of flavored water can help by quickly restoring the pH in your mouth to a more tooth-friendly level.

Mac and cheese if you please

On my list of things to do this week was write a post responding to the recent scare over toxic chemicals in boxed macaroni and cheese.  Fortunately, my friends at have save me the trouble. If this is something that you saw in the headlines and were concerned about, here is an excellent analysis of what we know and how much we need to worry about it.

Here’s the bottom line. An occasional box of mac and cheese isn’t going to kill anyone. However, there’s a pretty good argument for not eating it every day.  Phthalates are just one more good reason to not make packaged foods the mainstay of our diets–and to eat a variety of foods.

See also: How important is a varied diet?

Pros and Cons of Pea Milk

“My family recently replaced our lowfat milk with pea milk.  We’re trying to do our part for the environment and the advertising suggests that pea milk is much healthier than dairy. I’d love to know the health benefits and drawbacks of pea milk.”

If they come up with any more nondairy milk options, they’re going to need a second aisle for them at my grocery store!

One of the latest entrants into this category is a beverage made from yellow peas.  Like soy milk, pea milk boasts more protein than most other nondairy milks. With 8 grams of protein per serving, it’s comparable to cow’s milk. Legumes such as soybeans and yellow peas a also a relatively complete source of protein, although not quite as complete as dairy. Continue reading “Pros and Cons of Pea Milk” >

Fact Check: Three quarters of Americans are chronically dehydrated

Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisI got an email this morning from a blogger asking me to contribute to a post he was doing on ways to drink more water.

“My reason for doing this post,” he wrote, “is the scary fact that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated and it’s probably the same in most countries. The hope is to create “dehydration awareness” and provide inspiration for how others can drink more water.”

(He also happens to operate a website in which he sells lots of water-related products through affiliate links but I’m sure that’s neither here nor there…)

I declined to participate in the post but I was curious about the claim that three-quarters of Americans are chronically dehydrated. A quick Google search shows this exact claim repeated all over the web (although not by any terribly reliable websites).

Where do these “facts” come from?

Continue reading “Fact Check: Three quarters of Americans are chronically dehydrated” >