Q&A: Sara Snow

Introducing Sara Snow from the soon-to-premiere show on the Discovery Health Channel, Get Fresh with Sara Snow!

Sara was raised the "natural way"—before it was en vogue to be "green"—and attributes her healthy lifestyle to the food and lifestyle choices she learned growing up. Here, she offers her thoughts on prioritizing organic food choices, a surprising cure for the common headache, and some tips for living green.

What do you think is more impactful for our long-term wellbeing—eating organic fruits and vegetables or eating natural, hormone free eggs and meat?
This is a great question and there is a lot to take into account. Such as the farming methods required to raise organic vs. non-organic fruits and vegetables. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over a billion tons of pesticides are used in the United States every year. In 2002, the American Association of Poison Control Centers estimated that 69-thousand children suffered from pesticide related poisoning or exposure to poisonous pesticides. And what about the difference in pictures painted from a conventional dairy farm vs. a small, organic dairy?

If you’re looking at your immediate health you might want to consider what you eat the most of. Are you a big meat eater? Do you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables?

When it comes to produce, consider this: Reports are showing that children have higher levels of pesticide toxins in their bodies than any other age group. And studies show that contaminants, including pesticides, can be neurotoxic, which means they can slow or alter brain development. Other studies show that heavy use of pesticides is associated with heightened risks of cancer. In simple terms, eating non-organic fruits and vegetables allows you to ingest harmful pesticides and other chemical agents that could impede brain development in small children or increase one’s risk for certain types of cancer.

On the other hand, we are now beginning to see the effects of adults and small children consuming animal products loaded with hormones and antibiotics. Hormones are given to animals to speed up their growth. Industrial dairy farms use a hormone called rBGH to increase milk production but the hormone has been shown to cause a multitude of diseases and other problems in the cows. In humans, small boys and girls are experiencing widespread hormonal and developmental issues that studies have linked to drinking milk from conventionally raised cows. rBGH in milk has been shown to increase cancer risks. European nations have banned rBGH but it is still allowable in the United States.

So, while one affects your brain the other affects your hormones. Personally, I choose to avoid both. The truth is, the methods of farming that we now call “conventional” are still relatively new. The potential health and environmental risks have not been fully studied. What we do know is that there are ways to avoid ingesting high levels of both pesticides and hormones. This is what I choose to do. I buy only hormone and antibiotic free animal products. That goes for my eggs, my cheese and my milk. And I buy organic produce whenever possible. When it comes to bread, crackers, jellies, olives, etc. Whenever possible I choose the organic option. I know that by doing so I may be avoiding certain health risks and I’m supporting a system of farming that I believe in. A system that I believe can help save our bodies as well as our planet.

What are the best foods to eat when you have a cold, a fever or a headache?
You’ve heard “feed a cold, starve a fever” and you’ve probably also heard “starve a cold, feed a fever”. The truth is, neither is completely accurate. When you’re ill you don’t want to put unnecessary strain on your body by starving it or stuffing it. You want to give your body the right foods to provide energy, strength and nutrients. The motto I follow, especially when I’m sick, is to eat simply. Eat small meals of simple, natural foods, with the least amount of refining, processing and flavoring possible. A great motto for eating in health and in illness is to eat meals with only 2 or 3 types of foods and never eat more than could fit into two open hands.

Let’s talk about headaches. There are 3 basic types of headaches…caffeine, tension and sugar headaches. For a caffeine headache, occurring from caffeine withdrawal, the best thing to do is to drink a lot of water and wait for it to go away. You can, of course, drink some coffee. It may cure the headache but it won’t fix the problem.

When experiencing a stress headache, apple juice is a simple and extremely effective cure. Think about stress, it is tightening. Your body tenses up and you contract. Apple juice is expanding. It counteracts the tension in your body and releases your headache. Try warm apple juice to help you sleep.

Sugar headaches are caused by the exact opposite. Headaches from too much sugar or alcohol are expansive. For expansive headaches, umeboshi is a cure. Umeboshi plums are contracting and energizing. They also work against dizziness and sea sickness. If you can’t find umeboshi plums or paste, calmata olives or gomasio (sesame salt) will work in a pinch.

What types of exercise do you recommend to go along with your organic eating?
Exercise is something that fits naturally into my life. It helps me feel energized, centered and calm. But, exercise to me doesn’t necessarily mean jumping on the treadmill for 50 minutes or biking 25 miles. For me, exercise sometimes means 30 minutes on a bike followed by some stretching and light weights. Other days it means a 90 minute yoga class, Pilates or a looooong walk. Yoga and Pilates both work to elongate my body and build strength. My long walks, preferably with my husband and/or dog, help me to feel calm and connected to the earth below my feet. Both help me with posture, balance and control.

I don’t recommend any one type of exercise because everyone is different. If you’re looking to lose weight, exercise is certainly going to be effective. But exercise mindfully and carefully. Be sure you’re reserving enough energy to finish off your day.

What are 3 simple principles to keep in mind regarding an organic and green lifestyle?

1. Eat local, seasonal foods.
The average American meal travels 1,500 miles to get to an individual’s plate. Buying locally produced and grown foods, cuts down on nutrients lost due to early harvests and transportation and resources expended for the shipping and packaging of these foods.

The best way to buy local is to shop your farmer’s market or join a CSA. CSA stands for Community Support Agriculture; a system in which consumers pay a weekly or monthly fee in exchange for a portion of a particular farm’s harvests. Both with help you to eat more in-season, fresh foods.

2. Raise your shopping awareness.
Educate yourself about the healthy alternatives to foods, cleaning products, even clothing so you’re doing as many of the following as possible – eat organically farmed foods (fruits & vegetables, pasta, rice, bread, etc.); rethink your meat to include organic (or at least hormone and antibiotic free) beef, poultry, milk, eggs and cheese; seek out sustainably fished and farmed seafood; avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup; use natural and organic cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, etc.; replace worn out cotton t-shirts and sheets with their organic cotton counterparts; replace burnt out light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs to save energy; find healthy home items to surround and comfort yourself with.

3. Live mindfully.
This is a big one and it involves, not only your life, but also the footprint you are leaving. Live with consciousness, not abandon. Consider the impact a cross-country flight or daily commute has in terms of emissions and non-renewable fuel consumption. Offset your greenhouse emissions by investing in projects that neutralize them. And walk or bike whenever possible.

Recognize the impact your emotional emissions have on those around you. Encourage peace. Find balance by leaving time for relaxation or meditation. Seek health for yourself, but look to our earth to find ways you can give back and tread more lightly to create a healthy world as well. Eat well, sleep well, play well, and be well.

Get Fresh with Sara Snow premieres on Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 8 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Health Channel!