Have You Ever Tried Mangosteen?

By Dr. Mercola

It seems the American public is becoming more aware of the health advantages of eating plenty of plant-based foods and so is discovering more types of fruit than the typical bananas, apples and berries people usually choose when they’re shopping for food. One that’s been gaining an upsurge in interest in recent years is the mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), known in Asia as the “queen of fruits.”

Common in the rainforest areas of Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, this fruit looks a little like a giant plum on the outside. The rind, aka endocarp, comes in muted shades of dark red or purple topped with thick “petals” known in botanical circles as a calyx. Under the skin is a thick, reddish endocarp layer and inside that, the pure white fruit is sectioned similarly to an orange, but that’s where the likeness ends.

Besides eating them raw as fresh, thirst-quenching fruit, described as “delectably sweet” and “like a combination of strawberry, peach, vanilla ice cream,”1 they’re relatively low in calories. Mangosteen fruit can be preserved by canning them as jelly, preserves or jam, sometimes spiced with cloves or ginger, but the process may alter the flavor somewhat.

The rind is rich in pectin, the twigs are often used as “chewsticks” in Ghana and China, and the rosin is used to tan leather, according to the horticulture department at Purdue University, which adds:

“Mangosteens are usually eaten fresh as dessert. One need only hold the fruit with the stem-end downward, take a sharp knife and cut around the middle completely through the rind, and lift off the top half, which leaves the fleshy segments exposed in the colorful ‘cup’ — the bottom half of the rind. The segments are lifted out by fork.”2

Because the trees can grow up to 60 feet high, traditional harvesting methods in the tropical regions where it’s grown involve going after the fruit with long, telescoping poles with nets or baskets attached, although farmers sometimes climb the trees or use tall ladders. Once purchased or gathered, they should be placed in a cool well-ventilated place for up to two weeks or refrigerated to keep them longer.

Nutrition and You3 notes that scuffs or cuts to the mangosteen’s outer skin can “leak” the flavor of the skin’s “bitter latex” into the fruit itself, which renders the whole fruit bitter and inedible. The traditional harvesting methods may be a labor-intensive process, but are worth it, both for the food and flavor profile, as well as for the nutritional aspects, which, as you’ll read, are considerable.

So What Makes Mangosteen Beneficial?

People in the areas they’re grown find them useful for treating skin infections, acne, wounds, chronic diarrhea and cholera.4 Dried mangosteen is used in China for such maladies as dysentery and to make an ointment for eczema and other skin disorders. A broth of sorts made from the rind is also used for cystitis and gonorrhea, as well as to treat thrush and urinary disorders. In Malaysia, an infusion is taken to regulate menstruation.

Besides the aforementioned xanthones, other compounds in mangosteen include terpenes, anthocyanins, tannins and phenols. Modern clinical uses for extracts of mangosteen include to make essential minerals, green tea, aloe vera and multivitamins, and by cancer patients as a dietary supplement. Tellingly, mangosteens have been tapped to make one of the world’s top-selling plant-based supplements.5

Just one 3.5-ounce serving provides more than 5 grams of fiber, which is one of this fruit’s most valuable components. Fiber is the nutrient that bulks up the food you eat to move it through your colon for disposal as a waste product in a timely manner, which is crucial for good health.

Additional vitamins and minerals include vitamins A, C, an array of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid and folate, and minerals like copper, manganese, potassium and magnesium. As for the benefits the compounds in mangosteens impart, there are several diseases, disorders and conditions they positively affect:

Blood sugar6

Neuropathy

Obesity

Improved skin7

Macular degeneration8

Arthritis9

Improved vision

Blood pressure10

Accelerated healing

Boosted immunity

From Alleviated Histamine Intolerance to Improved Brain Function

One of the problems mangosteen is noted for improving is fungal infections, including Candida albicans, which is often due to the consumption of too much sugar and grains, high stress levels and coming into contact with certain parasites, fungi and viruses. Fungal overgrowth, in turn, can lead to histamine intolerance. The Alternative Daily11 lists a number of symptoms below, and further explanation:

Itching or sudden rash after eating certain foods

A runny nose after eating

Multiple food allergies

Eczema

Sugar cravings

Frequent fungal outbreaks

Fatigue in spite of eight hours of sleep

Candida and/or yeast overgrowth

Constant illness for no apparent reason

Moodiness or anxiety after eating certain foods

“These situations can lead to an overgrowth of yeast in the body which our good bacteria cannot compete with. One of the side effects of fungal overgrowth is known as histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerance is not as heavily discussed today as other reactions to fungal overgrowth, such as jock itch, athlete’s foot, etc.

However, it is more prevalent than many people realize, and it is often mistaken for something else. The body can experience symptoms of histamine intolerance when the immune system has been weakened by yeast, or a health issue such as an autoimmune disorder.”

In studies, mangosteen extracts also protected the brain from damage done by glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. When there’s too much, it can result in neurological injury, aka nerve cell death and the production of more free radicals in the brain.

That’s another reason why mangosteen is lauded as “a promising therapeutic compound” for neurodegenerative inflammation such as the kind that causes Parkinson’s disease,12 similar to Alzheimer’s disease; it has a protein named alpha-synuclein that causes buildups and subsequent damage, Wellness Resources continues:

“In Parkinson’s disease, the protein damages dopamine-rich parts of the brain which leads to its classic symptoms of depression, flat affect, fatigue, constipation, tremors, balance and gait problems.”13

Recent studies show that xanthones impede the buildup of amyloid beta protein that leads to neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease, but also occurs in concussions and traumatic brain injury. All together, these and other phytonutrients neutralize harmful free radicals and help the body fight infection. Studies have shown that mangosteens have the potential to slow the growth of cancer cells and may be chemopreventive.

Additional Information on Problems Improved by Mangosteen

Wellness Resources notes a number of other dramatic changes the xanthones and other compounds in mangosteens made in other areas of health, including the prevalence of deadly bacteria (“nightmare bacteria”) superbugs and staph infections, one of the most prominent being MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus). One reason they’re so dangerous is that they’re resistant to antibiotics, recur alarmingly often in hospitals and kill more than 23,000 people in the U.S. annually. Further:

“These bacteria are now being found in healthy individuals, but occur without symptoms. Rather, the healthy individual is a carrier who unknowingly transfers the germ to another individual. That person may be immunological susceptible and develop into an infection which can quickly transpire into a life-threatening situation. These killer bacteria can quickly evolve and mutate to avoid antibiotic treatment success.”14

Biofilms are a type of dental plaque that contain a slimy buildup of bacteria on the surfaces of your teeth. One type is staph aureus, which includes MRSA. Mangosteen extract damaged the bacteria’s cell membrane, leading to its destruction.15

Xanthones in Mangosteen: Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, Chemoprotective

Health-wise, the mangosteen has been found to contain valuable phytonutrients such as powerful antioxidants, the principal one being xanthones, which scientists identify as chemopreventive. Researchers from China and the U.S. cooperating in one clinical study noted that, although new cancer strategies are continually being developed, “The treatment and management of malignant tumors still remain a formidable challenge for public health.”

The study authors note that xanthones in nearly every part of the plant are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal, as well as being antiviral and perhaps most importantly for their research, antitumor, potentially exerting chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activity in all the stages of carcinogenesis, including its initiation, promotion and progression. As the study observes, xanthones are recognized as the controlling factors in cell division and growth, apoptosis, inflammation and metastasis:

“Multiple lines of evidence from numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have confirmed that xanthones inhibit proliferation of a wide range of human tumor cell types by modulating various targets and signaling transduction pathways.”16

One of the most potent aspects of xanthones is the antioxidant strength they exert when they come up against the excessive reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) produced by carcinogens, including those involved in the development of cancer, including hydroxyl radicals (OH•), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and the superoxide anion (O2?•), according to the study. Additionally:

“Aerobic organisms possess antioxidant systems that function to scavenge ROI. These systems include enzyme-based antioxidants, such as superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase and glutathione reductase. Tissue damage, however, can arise from an imbalance in free radicals and antioxidants, resulting in the development of a variety of degenerative disorders.”17

The researchers listed numerous cancer types that showed remarkable suppression of cell proliferation when exposed to the xanthones in mangosteens. Those exhibiting the highest activity were against breast cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, tongue cancer,18 liver cancer, pheochromocytoma (a rare tumor in the adrenal gland) and colorectal carcinoma.

Mangosteen Recipe: Mixed Spring Greens with Champagne-Citrus Vinaigrette

If you’d like to give mangosteens a try, here’s a healthy recipe that’s perfect for lunch or dinner:

Mixed Spring Greens with Champagne-Citrus Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • Mixed spring greens or spinach
  • 2 mangosteens, peeled and segmented
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • Natural salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Champagne-Citrus Vinaigrette:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed mangosteen juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey

Procedure:

  1. Use a sharp knife to cut around the outside middle of the mangosteen, about half an inch deep. Using both hands, use your thumbs to pry open the fruit and remove white fruit segments (not unlike an orange) at center.
  2. Spread chopped almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast lightly in a 350 degree oven (about five minutes). Combine all but the oil in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in oil until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place spring greens in a large salad bowl, toss with vinaigrette and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Makes 4 servings.

Can CAFOs Force Stores to Buy Their Products?

By Dr. Mercola

Chickens that lay eggs in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) endure some of the cruelest conditions in industrial agriculture. Most hens spend their short lives in “battery cages” that are about the size of a piece of paper — so small the hens cannot spread their wings. Within a year, they lose their feathers and have their skin rubbed raw from the close contact with other birds.

Forced to lay eggs with no privacy (a very stressful situation for a hen) and live with no space, the industry also painfully severs the end of their beaks to prevent the birds from pecking at each other. Severe health problems are common as a result of their immobility, from spinal cord deterioration leading to paralysis to muscle and bone wasting. As for male chicks, the facilities have no use for them, so they’re ground up alive or suffocated in a plastic bag.1

There are public health issues created by CAFOs as well, from the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease to widespread pollution to the fact that CAFO eggs are more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. One study found eggs from hens confined to cages in CAFOs had 7.7 times greater odds of harboring salmonella bacteria than eggs from non-caged hens.2

Battery cages have already been banned in the European Union, but in the U.S., 94 percent of eggs produced come from these inhumane CAFOs.3 The more word has gotten out about the brutal conditions, however, the more demand has increased for more humane eggs — and restaurants and retailers have been listening. About 100 grocery store chains and dozens of restaurants and food manufacturers, including McDonald’s and Walmart, have pledged to stop using caged eggs within the next 10 years.4

According to The Intercept, “These outlets collectively comprise 70 percent of consumer demand in the United States,”5 which is more than enough to prompt real change in the industry. This would require the majority of CAFO egg producers to rethink the cheap way they’re churning out eggs, so not surprisingly there’s been some serious backlash.

Iowa Bill Would Require Stores to Sell CAFO Eggs

A bill introduced in Iowa and already passed by the Iowa House of Representatives would require grocery stores in the state that participate in the Women, Infants and Children federal food assistance program and carry “specialty eggs” such as cage-free or free-range eggs, to also carry CAFO eggs.6

The pitch is that cage-free eggs can be more expensive, so the bill is supposed to protect consumers’ access to cheaper eggs and ensure “consumer choice,” but what it’s really about is protecting the interests of industrialized agriculture. Cody Carlson, an attorney at animal welfare group Mercy for Animals, told The Intercept, “These bills are designed to keep a dying industry afloat that consumers no longer want to support … This is an industry that refuses to change in any meaningful way.”7

It’s incredibly brazen to allow the government to dictate to stores what they must carry, especially when the product in question is one that comes at such a heavy environmental, public health and animal welfare cost. “In Iowa,” The Intercept reported, “the strategy of these corporations now rests on overriding the demands of the market and empowering the government to dictate to stores what they must sell — in particular, barring them from refusing to sell eggs that are the products of grotesque cruelty.”8

Proposition 2 Brought More Humane Eggs to California

Americans yield incredible power when it comes to forcing change in the marketplace, as was demonstrated in California with the passage of Proposition 2 in 2008. The ballot initiative, which “passed in a landslide,” prohibited California egg producers (as well as producers of veal calves and pregnant pigs) from keeping hens in cages too small for them to turn around, stand up, lie down or stretch their limbs.

The measure brought at least some relief to hens raised in cages, but at the same time put the state’s egg producers at a disadvantage to producers from other states, who could produce cheaper eggs without Prop. 2 requirements, then ship them to California to be sold. The state remedied this by applying the Prop. 2 standards to all eggs sold in the state. According to The Intercept:9

Since Prop 2’s passage, elected officials in Iowa and other egg-producing states have been vigorously fighting to undercut those laws in order to preserve access to California’s massive consumer market for their own egg producers — without requiring them to invest in better conditions for their hens.”

Ironically, one of the key arguments used against Prop. 2 was that it stood contrary to a free market and kept consumers from their freedom of food choice. Now the tables have turned, and consumers are demanding the right to choose eggs from cage-free hens, but Big Ag doesn’t want to hear about it. Chris Holbein of the Humane Society of the United States told The Intercept:10

“It’s extremely hypocritical that Iowa’s factory farmers have pretended for a long time to care about protecting the free market, because now that the free market is turning against them and in favor of more responsible producers that are trying to do the right thing for consumers and animals, the factory producers want the government to force grocery stores to sell a product that is both unsafe and unethical.”

To date, all measures from Iowa that have tried to target Prop. 2 have failed, including in 2016 when Iowa’s governor and five other state attorneys general sued California’s attorney general in order to block Prop. 2 enforcement. Now, California is taking Prop. 2 a step further and proposals have been made to expand minimum cage sizes. Meanwhile, a ballot initiative in the state is calling to get rid of cages entirely, proposing that all California eggs be produced from cage-free hens.

Government’s History of Protecting CAFOs

The Iowa bill to force stores to carry CAFO eggs is disturbing though not surprising given the government’s history of protecting industrialized agriculture. Consider Vande Bunte Eggs in Michigan, an egg-laying chicken CAFO that houses 1.6 million birds. With more than 200 state permit violations in the span of three years, you might think the facility would be in danger of being shut down.

Instead, it’s received more than $1 million in federal subsidies. The company’s owner, Tim Vande Bunte, also testified in support of Senate Bill 660, which was introduced in December 2017 and would push back the deadline for Michigan egg producers to provide cage-free chicken housing from 2020 to 2025.11

Vande Bunte’s many violations are but one example cited in a report compiled by the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan.12,13 The report analyzed 272 CAFOs in Michigan and found they had collectively received more than $103 million in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2014, all while racking up 644 environmental permit violations by the end of 2016.

Meanwhile, in early 2017, 35 advocacy groups, including Food & Water Watch, called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to close federal loopholes that are allowing CAFOs to continue polluting the planet. In a petition, the groups asked the EPA to require CAFOs housing a certain number of animals or using a certain kind of manure management system to obtain a permit. The EPA has said that up to 75 percent of CAFOs need permits but only 40 percent have them.

Iowa has much at stake when it comes to CAFO eggs; the state produces about 1 in 5 eggs produced in the U.S. each year,14 and virtually all of them come from hens kept in battery cages. As the market for CAFO eggs declines, they’re banking on the new bill to force stores to continue selling their unsafe and inhumane product — but that doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

Real Regenerative Agriculture Is Poultry-Centered


At the Main Street Project in Northfield, Minnesota, 100 acres of land are serving a very good purpose, hosting a poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system that’s grounded on an ecological, social and economically integrated management system.

“Rather than trying to fix the endless barrage of problems industrial farming has spawned, we simply don’t create those problems in the first place,” the Project notes, using methods such as cover crops, solar heating in chicken coops and perennial plants, including hazelnuts and elderberries, to protect chickens and provide revenue.

Small grains, cover crops and perennials provide a cash crop to farmers while offering nutrition and shelter to the chickens. “[T]he chickens in exchange provide the manure to fertilize not only the paddock and the plants within, but also other vegetables and perennials that provide associated agricultural enterprises in the area,” according to the Project, which continues:15

“Chickens are at the center of our system because they work so well with the crops, farmers and environment. They’re a one-stop weed-eating, bug-killing, soil-enhancing replacement for the counter-productive synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers destroying conventional farms and their communities.

They can also … increas[e] the soil’s ability to absorb carbon. More carbon sequestration means an actual reduction in greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere – something that conservation alone cannot do.”

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, an innovator in the field of regenerative agriculture and chief strategy officer at Main Street, is the principal architect of the poultry-centered regenerative agriculture model used at the Main Street Project. The system he came up with is a blueprint for regenerative farming that can be applied on a larger scale, and with it, he hopes to structure a real, commercially viable, food revolution from the ground up that can be replicated and customized anywhere in the world.

According to Haslett-Marroquin, regenerative agriculture needs to be centered around livestock in order to be optimized, and adding chickens is an easy way to do that. Not only is poultry something that connects every community in the world, but the meat and eggs are also a valuable source of animal protein (critical when dealing with hunger in a permanent way), and can be a solid economic platform to deal with poverty.

Poultry is also very accessible to small-scale farmers, who produce most of the food in the world — an important fact that many are unaware of. The Main Street Project has moved past the proof of concept stage, showing that their poultry-centered, regenerative agriculture prototype works.

They’re now in Stage 2, building an integrated central farm with seven poultry units that has an output of 21,000 meat chickens per year, perennials established (with harvest to come) and annual crops. The next phase is to scale the project into a regional system, the Project notes:16

“ … to the point where we gain significant market share while regenerating soil, protecting our waterways, and supplying the region with nutritious free-range poultry meat and eggs. With greater participation and crop production, we will also see increased expansion into more enterprise sectors — not only selling grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables, but seeing community members turn products into jams, salsas, soups and other value-added products.”

CAFOs Can’t Force You to Buy Their Eggs

The systems the Main Street Program is developing are far superior to conventional ones for integrating poultry into a viable model for providing food for the masses. This system is geared not for those growing food in their backyard, but for creating a larger-scale food system based on small-scale farms that are both sustainable and high-yield (although you can use similar principles in your backyard garden or hobby farm as well).

However, until such systems become the norm instead of the exception, CAFO eggs still dominate the market — a sad truth you have the power to help change. Choosing food that comes from small regenerative farms — not CAFOs — is crucial. While avoiding CAFO meats, dairy and eggs, look for antibiotic-free alternatives raised by organic and regenerative farmers. Unfortunately, loopholes abound, allowing CAFO-raised chickens and eggs to masquerade as “free-range” and “organic.”

The Cornucopia Institute addressed some of these issues in their egg report and scorecard, which ranks egg producers according to 28 organic criteria. It can help you to make a more educated choice if you’re buying your eggs at the supermarket. Ultimately, to find safer, more humane and environmentally friendly chicken and eggs, the best choice is to get to know a local farmer and get your meat and eggs there directly.

Doctor Wants to ‘Snuff Out’ Pharmaceutical Skeptics

By Dr. Mercola

In the vaccination debate, what happens all too often is notan open, scientifically based discussion but, rather, inappropriate name-calling and threats. It has been suggested by doctors and attorneys promoting forced vaccination policies that experienced and enlightened physicians who question vaccine safety be stripped of their medical licenses, that parents who oppose vaccine mandates be imprisoned and that online discussions of vaccine risks and failures be censored.

It’s also not unusual for doctors to criticize, belittle or refuse to see children whose parents question the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination. Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, has taken this to another level entirely, going so far as to bully parents of vaccine-injured children and classify the nonprofit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) as a “hate group.”

“[Anti-vaccine organizations] camouflage themselves as a political group, but I call them for what they really are: a hate group,” Hotez told Duke University’s The Chronicle. “They are a hate group that hates [our] family and hates [our] children.”1 Yet, as explained by Barbara Loe Fisher, NVIC president and cofounder:2

In the 21st century, the term ‘hate group’ is most frequently used to describe groups of individuals associated with ‘hate crimes,’ which are defined by state laws and include threats, harassment or physical harm. Hate crimes are motivated by prejudice against someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability …

A child health advocacy group that points out vaccine science research gaps, criticizes paternalism in medical practice and challenges the use of utilitarianism as the moral foundation for public health policy does not qualify as a ‘hate group.'”

Hotez Bullies Parents of Vaccine-Injured Children

In a global health lecture at Duke University, Hotez called on scientists to “engage the public” to counter the “anti-vaccine movement,” which he blamed as a key cause of preventable deaths. He said the movement had been propelled by “anti-vaccine websites” like NVIC.org, which is, unquestionably, the best resource for accessing referenced information on U.S. vaccine policy and law and the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

“The article reported that Hotez castigated politicians from the ‘peace, love, granola’ political left, who believe that ‘we have to be careful what we put into our kid’s bodies,’ and politicians from the political right, who tell doctors like him ‘you can’t tell us what to do with our kids,'” Fisher said, adding:3

“But Dr. Hotez reserved the bulk of his venom for parents of vaccine-injured children. Like a schoolyard bully who engages in name calling when he can’t come up with anything intelligent to say, he slapped the label ‘anti-vaccine’ onto parents of vaccine-injured children speaking about what happened to their children after vaccination.”

Hotez, by the way, is a vaccine developer, a former president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. And this isn’t the first time he’s criticized those who favor vaccine choice and safety. He’s gone so far as to say that the movement calling for increased scientific study into vaccine efficacy and risks, and calling for protection of informed consent, should be “snuffed out,” i.e., crushed or killed. As noted by The Vaccine Reaction, published by NVIC:4

“In March [2017] … Scientific American published an article by Peter Hotez, M.D., of Texas Children’s Hospital, also inciting violence against people who do not agree with current government vaccine policies. Dr. Hotez stated: ‘An American anti-vaccine movement is building and we need to take steps now to snuff it out.'”

In 2015, USA Today published a column by Alex Berezow advocating that “anti-vax” parents should be imprisoned. At the time that seemedto be a draconian proposal, but certainly less so compared to today’s calls by vaccine developers and forced vaccination proponents like Hotez, who use violent imagery to suggest violent suppression of people who object to one-size-fits-all vaccine policies and advocate for the human right to informed consent.

Further, Hotez also serves as a director on the board of The Immunization Partnership (TIP), a Texas-based coalition that supports the universal use of vaccines, electronic vaccine-tracking registries and mandatory vaccination laws.

“During the 2017 legislative session in Texas, TIP representatives directly gave testimony and lobbied for bills that would make it harder for families to decline vaccines or choose to vaccinate their children using a schedule that differs from the CDC’s recommended schedule,” the NVIC advocacy team explained last fall during Vaccine Awareness Week .

A ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Vaccine Policy Isn’t Right for Everyone

No matter where you stand in the vaccination debate, most would agree that in the case of medical care, one size does not fit all. What works for your child (or yourself) may not work for your neighbor’s, but in the case of vaccinations they’re prescribed exactly the same for every child. Today we know, however, that some children, like those with mitochondrial disorders, are at increased risk from vaccinations. Others are as well.

For instance, Dr. Suzanne Humphries, author of “Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History,” is a nephrologist who has committed the latter part of her medical career to exposing the truth of vaccinations. She was accustomed to giving vaccinations to her patients with kidney disease, including those on dialysis, until she realized that hospital patients were experiencing worsening kidney function and kidney failure after being vaccinated.

Initially Dr. Humphries thought these may have been anomalies or unfortunate coincidences, but as the number of cases continued to rise, even in those who were previously healthy with no known medical problems, the association became too great to ignore. She uncovered a link between the aluminum adjuvant and mercury in many vaccines and health damage.

For genetic or biological reasons that we don’t yet understand, some people appear predisposed to poor aluminum detoxification, so aluminum accumulates in their tissues and leads to myalgias, fatigue, cognitive deficiencies and other health problems. Aluminum is also known to be toxic to kidney patients on dialysis, which is why the water used for this processed is carefully screened to be sure its aluminum free (as well as free of other toxins).

In addition to aluminum being toxic for some people who are chronically ill, there are also questions as to whether it’s safe to vaccinate babies with aluminum-containing vaccines. When aluminum, for instance, is injected into the body, it’s known to disrupt enzymes, cross the blood-brain barrier, bind to DNA and act as a gene disrupter and act as a cell signaling and membrane toxin. As Humphries said:

“We’re very careful as nephrologists when treating babies because the kidney functions of babies isn’t the same as adults — it’s vastly reduced. But when it comes to vaccines, this reduced kidney function in infants is always left out of the discussion.”

More Research Is Urgently Needed to Uncover Vaccine Safety or Lack Thereof

In 2013, a JAMA Pediatrics study evaluated aluminum levels in 2-month-old infants following the administration of three vaccines at once, which is given per usual according to the infant vaccine schedule. This exposes the child to 1,200 micrograms of aluminum. Urine and blood were collected, but no significant changes in levels of aluminum were seen after vaccination.5 The researchers described the finding as “reassuring,” but as Humphries noted, where did the aluminum go?

If it wasn’t excreted and blood levels didn’t rise, it means it was retained in tissues. Despite this, infants are routinely vaccinated without regard for their immature kidney function. According to Humphries, “Aluminum is also injected into many babies on the day of birth in the hepatitis B vaccine.

That’s 250 micrograms of aluminum at a time when kidney function is even lower than it is at 2 months.” The fact remains that studies are urgently needed to determine if vaccines are safe for sick people, babies and in many other special cases. Further, you can see, then, how vaccine mandates may turn out to be health disasters for some people.

“The doctors operating the mandatory vaccination system with an iron fist, who refuse to acknowledge or address the suffering of people for whom the risks of vaccination turned out to be 100 percent,” Fisher stated, “would do well to reflect upon the primary role they have played in the crisis of public trust in the safety of vaccines and doctors forcing everyone to use them.”6

Indeed, trying to get unbiased, truthful information about vaccines is not easy, and the cards are very much stacked against you receiving the truth, especially when those who dare to question vaccine safety are often ridiculed or threatened.

Yet burning questions exist, like why aren’t efforts being made to identify children who may be at increased risk of vaccine side effects in order to prevent any unnecessary harm? An individual’s response to a vaccine is actually influenced by manyfactors. For instance, an individual’s gut microbes may help determine their immune response to vaccines.

Infants that responded to the rotavirus vaccine had a higher diversity of microbes in their gut, as well as more microbes from the Proteobacteria group, than infants who did not mount the expected immune response.7

Epigenetic science, which now tells us that our genes are not our destiny, is another variable in vaccine safety, because no one knows how vaccines affect your genes (and it’s likely different in every person). Part of the problem is that once you start to epigenetically tinker with the infant immune system, you are basically depositing what Humphries refers to as “little cluster bombs” that will eventually “explode into a big problem.”

As an example, she cites a study by Nikolaj Orntoft, in which African girls were injected with a tetanus vaccine to see which genes might be upregulated or downregulated (basically “turned on” or “turned off”). What they found is that there’s really no way to predict which genes will be affected.

So not only will each individual have a unique response to any given vaccine based on their age, current health status and microbial makeup, but individuals are also epigenetically predisposed to respond differently in terms of the side effects we might develop.

Yet, doctors like Hotez, instead of opening up the playing field for legitimate questions into vaccine safety and efficacy, would rather engage in name-calling (NVIC and other vaccine choice organizations are “exporting … anti-vax garbage” to communities around the world, he said)8 and have parents who disagree with him “snuffed out.”

Protect Your Right to Informed Consent and Defend Vaccine Exemptions

With all the uncertainty surrounding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, it’s critical to protect your right to make independent health choices and exercise voluntary informed consent to vaccination. It is urgent that everyone in the U.S. stand up and fight to protect and expand vaccine informed consent protections in state public health and employment laws. The best way to do this is to get personally involved with your state legislators and educating the leaders in your community.

When you ask your physician about vaccine safety, you will most likely get a canned answer, one assuring you vaccines are safe. At the very least, physicians should be explaining to parents that their children can get a blood titer test that measures the level of antibodies in their blood. If the levels are high enough, a person is considered “immune” to that particular disease and no further vaccinations or boosters should be necessary.

If your doctor is unwilling to discuss titers with you, find one who is. From my point of view, there can be little doubt that we need to review the safety and effectiveness of the current vaccination program in the U.S. This review needs to include methodologically sound investigative studies that are not compromised by conflicts of interest within industry and government. As Fisher stated in 2016 when criticizing vaccine orthodoxy and urging everyone to defend civil and human rights when it comes to vaccination:9

“Vaccine injury and death does not discriminate between races or social classes, except when people are kept ignorant, economically dependent and unable to make informed choices.

While we still have freedom of speech, press, thought, conscience and religion in America, please exercise and defend those civil and human rights at every opportunity. If we all stand up for the freedom we have left today, we will not lose more of it tomorrow. Knowledge is the antidote to vaccine orthodoxy because knowledge is power.”

Public Health Agency Sued for Coke Collusion

By Dr. Mercola

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should be cracking down on corporations promoting products linked to poor health and disease, including soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, they appear to have taken the industry, and one of its flagship companies, Coca-Cola, under their protective wing. U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), a nonprofit consumer and public health watchdog organization, is conducting an investigation to find out just how cozy the ties are between Coca-Cola and the CDC.

They filed six Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the CDC to look into its relationship with Coca-Cola in December 2017. While the CDC acknowledged their receipt just days later, they have not provided a response — a requirement for federal agencies within 20 business days of receiving an FOIA request. Now USRTK is suing the CDC due to its failure to comply with the FOIA requests and provide documents in response. USRTK co-director Gary Ruskin said in a news release:1

“We are suing the CDC to uncover the extent and nature of the CDC’s relationship with Coca-Cola … Just as it is wrong for the CDC to assist tobacco companies, it is also wrong for CDC to assist obesogenic companies like Coca-Cola.”

What Have 19 Former FOIA Requests Revealed About the CDC?

Since 2016, USRTK has filed 19 FOIA requests with the CDC, which have helped to expose a number of concerning ties between the CDC and Coca-Cola. For instance, former CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald received $1 million in funding from Coca-Cola2 to combat childhood obesity during her six-year stint as commissioner of Georgia’s public health department and has a history of promoting the soda industry’s alternative facts.

Her Coke-funded anti-obesity campaign focused on exercise. None of the recommendations involved cutting down on soda and junk food, yet research shows exercise cannot counteract the ill effects of a high-sugar (i.e., high soda) diet.

At the time of her appointment to CDC director, Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest stated, “We hope Dr. Fitzgerald, as head of CDC, avoids partnering with Coke on obesity for the same reason she would avoid partnering with the tobacco industry on lung cancer prevention.”3

Ironically, Fitzgerald reportedly owned stocks in no less than five different tobacco companies, plus drug companies, when she was appointed CDC director. As part of her ethics agreement, she sold those stocks when accepting her new position. But then, mere months into the job, she went and bought stocks in Japan Tobacco International (JTI), one of the largest tobacco companies in the world.

She also bought stocks in a dozen other health-related companies, including Merck, Bayer, Humana and U.S. Foods Holding Corp. Politico exposed Fitzgerald’s tobacco investments, which led to her handing in her resignation a day later.4 Conflicts of interest seem to be a pattern at the CDC. Fitzgerald actually took the place of Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

Bowman reportedly aided a Coca-Cola representative in efforts to influence World Health Organization (WHO) officials to relax recommendations on sugar limits.5 She left the agency unexpectedly, two days after her close ties with Coca-Cola were revealed.

Bowman, however, was not the only CDC official looking out for Coca-Cola. Uncovered emails also suggest that Michael Pratt, senior adviser for global health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, has also promoted and led research for the soda giant. According to the Huffington Post:6

“Pratt did not respond to questions about his work, which includes a position as a professor at Emory University, a private research university in Atlanta that has received millions of dollars from the Coca-Cola Foundation and more than $100 million from famed longtime Coca-Cola leader Robert W. Woodruff and Woodruff’s brother George.

Indeed, Coca-Cola’s financial support for Emory is so strong that the university states on its website that ‘it’s unofficially considered poor school spirit to drink other soda brands on campus.’”

CDC Receives Funding From Coca-Cola — How Much?

The CDC receives funding from Coca-Cola via the CDC Foundation. USRTK reported that the CDC Foundation received $1.1 million from Coca-Cola from 2010 to 2012, but contributions after that date have not been disclosed. While the CDC Foundation discloses contributions made by Coca-Cola in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the amounts are not made public.7

Another recent scandal to face the agency is the apparent banning of a handful of words and phrases from budget documents, including the terms “evidence-based” and “science-based.” The New York Times reported:8

“The news set off an uproar among advocacy groups … who denounced any efforts to muzzle federal agencies or censor their language. The Times confirmed some details of the report with several officials, although a few suggested that the proposal was not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval … A former federal official, who asked not to be named, called the move unprecedented.”

It’s clear, nonetheless, that conflicts of interest have been corrupting the CDC’s mission for some time. In 2016, a group of senior CDC scientists even sent a letter to the CDC raising concerns about the conflicts of interest and industry ties that appear to be so common among CDC leaders.9 The group goes by the name CDC Scientists Preserving Integrity, Diligence and Ethics in Research (CDC SPIDER); individuals left their names out for fear of retaliation. The letter begins:10

“It appears that our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests. It seems that our mission and Congressional intent for our agency is being circumvented by some of our leaders. What concerns us most, is that it is becoming the norm and not the rare exception. Some senior management officials at CDC are clearly aware and even condone these behaviors.

… Some staff are intimidated and pressed to do things they know are not right. We have representatives from across the agency that witness this unacceptable behavior. It occurs at all levels and in all of our respective units. These questionable and unethical practices threaten to undermine our credibility and reputation as a trusted leader in public health.”

CDC Promotes Flawed ‘Energy Balance’ Theory

The CDC is among a number of public health agencies that promote “energy balance,” assuring that: “Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while … ” The CDC even goes as far as to say, “The point is, you can figure out how to include almost any food in your healthy eating plan in a way that still helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.”11

Really? Even soda? Researchers have known since the 1960s that your body metabolizes different types of carbohydrates, like glucose and fructose, in different ways, causing very different hormonal and physiological responses that absolutely may influence fat accumulation and metabolism.12

One 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 33 grams of sugar (8 1/4 teaspoons) and 36 grams of net carbohydrates, which is more than your body can safely handle, especially at one sitting.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that sugar should make up less than 10 percent of your total daily energy intake, with additional benefits to be had if you reduce it to below 5 percent (which amounts to about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons of sugar a day).13 For optimal health, I recommend limiting your intake of net carbs to under 40 to 50 grams per day, which is virtually impossible to do if you drink soda.

Gary Taubes, cofounder of the Nutrition Science Initiative and the author of “The Case Against Sugar,” expertly documents sugar’s link to chronic disease and much more, including whether sugar should more aptly be described as a drug instead of a food. It doesn’t cause the immediate symptoms of intoxication, like dizziness, staggering, slurring of speech or euphoria, associated with other “drugs,” yet perhaps this only allowed its long-term medical consequences to go “unasked and unanswered.”

Most of us today will never know if we suffer even subtle withdrawal symptoms from sugar, because we’ll never go long enough without it to find out,” Taubes wrote, adding that sugar has likely killed more people than tobacco and that tobacco wouldn’t have killed as many people as it did without sugar.14 Harvard School of Public Health further compiled a list of additional studies demonstrating the link between soda and chronic disease:15

  • Men who drank an average of one can of soda per day had a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed soda16
  • Women who consumed a can of soda daily over a 22-year study had a 75 percent higher risk of gout than women who rarely consumed soda17
  • Reducing soda consumption can reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes18

USRTK Seeks to ‘Shine the Light of Transparency’

The USRTK FOIA lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, states that it is seeking to secure records “in order to enhance the public’s understanding and awareness of the degree of behind-the-scenes communications between CDC officials and the private companies whose products may have implications for public health.” The filing continues, “In particular USRTK endeavors in this action to shine the light of transparency on interactions between vendors of sugary drinks and CDC officials.”19

Indeed, it’s a transparency that has been sorely lacking, and FOIA requests have so far proven to be a valuable tool to force their hand. In addition to the scandals involving Fitzgerald and Bowman, USRTK secured records via FOIA requests that reported documented “communications between CDC employees and other current and former Coca-Cola employees, such as Alex Malaspina.”20

Malaspina, a former senior vice president at Coca-Cola, founded the industry-funded International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), which has been implicated in seeking to influence science and public policy. For instance, the widespread prevalence of sugar in the U.S. diet is common knowledge, yet U.S. Dietary Guidelines only recommend limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10 percent each day, or 12 teaspoons, for a 2,000-calorie diet.

If the Guidelines were truly put out to protect Americans’ health, it should be far lower and, in fact, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) did recommend that Americans reduce their intake of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. However, this was followed by a flurry of activity from industry groups who, using tobacco-industry tactics, attempted to sway the dietary debate in their favor.

The day after DGAC’s report was released, another industry-backed group, International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC),21 sent out a mass email to its directors and staff detailing the call they’d had with the media earlier that morning, in which they discussed “insufficient evidence” behind the recommendation to reduce added sugars. More than 20 experts were apparently on hand to discuss the issues with the media. Bloomberg reported:22

“The email was then forwarded outside of the organization to Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola executive and the founding president of ILSI. Malaspina, in turn, forwarded it to two current Coke executives, adding that ‘IFIC is coming through for our industry’ …

The next morning, in an email to Malaspina, Michael Ernest Knowles, a former vice president of Global Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at Coca-Cola and former president of ILSI, went further than media outreach, calling for ‘the generation of credible consensus science on the issues hitting the industry — obesity and causative factors, sugar, low/no calories sweetener safety — in particular we have to use external organizations in addition to any work we directly commission.’”

A report sponsored by ILSI was then published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluding “guidelines on dietary sugar do not meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations and are based on low-quality evidence” and suggesting public health officials be aware of this when making recommendations and consumers take it into account when making dietary choices.23,24

Will CDC’s True Colors Finally Be Revealed?

By suing the CDC for documents that may reveal its strong ties to Coca-Cola, USRTK is seeking to let Americans know that public health organizations are not always capable of protecting public health.

“Expanding upon its previous efforts, USRTK now seeks to flesh out the extent of these types of communications involving a host of CDC officials … [and current and former employees of The Coca-Cola Co.]. The intent of this action is to ensure that the public is better informed about these communications and to what extent, if any, they are having an impact on the CDC and its public health decisions that impact Americans’ lives,” the organization stated.25

Hopefully, justice will be served and the truth will be revealed, but in the meantime it’s up to you to take control of your own health, and giving up soda — both sugar-sweetened and diet — is one of the most fundamental steps you can take in doing so.

All About Growing Asparagus

By Dr. Mercola

When you see asparagus standing tall and proud in neat displays at your local grocery store, you might have a hard time imagining how it is grown. It may seem even harder to imagine you could grow it in your own vegetable garden.

While growing asparagus takes patience — about three years to be exact, to ensure vigorous growth and plant maturity — it is not as difficult as you may think. All the preparation and hard work you do initially will be richly rewarded when you harvest those first tender shoots. If you are planting a garden and would enjoy a versatile vegetable that is packed with vitamins and minerals, and delivers important health benefits, you most definitely should consider growing asparagus.

Why Asparagus Is so Good for You

Dubbed as a “feel-good” vegetable because of its mood-boosting potential, asparagus is a superfood you may want to consider not only eating more often, but cultivating in your garden. It’s a nutritionally balanced vegetable that is loaded with vitamins A, E and K. One cup (180 grams) of cooked asparagus contains just 40 calories.

Asparagus is also a good source of vitamins C and B, including folate. Folate helps your body make dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which is why asparagus is thought to support your mood. Claims that asparagus protects against cancer are based on its high level of glutathione, a potent antioxidant. It also contains rutin, a bioflavonoid (plant pigment), which protects your small blood vessels from rupturing. It also may protect against the damaging effects of radiation.

Asparagus boasts healthy levels of copper, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc, to name a few of the minerals it contains. It also supports your digestive health, thanks to the presence of insoluble and soluble fiber, along with inulin, a prebiotic that acts as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Finally, researchers have uncovered a natural angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor in asparagus that appears useful for lowering your blood pressure. A 2015 study1 revealed a new sulfur-containing metabolite known as asparaptine, found in asparagus spears, which, according to the authors, acts as a “new ACE inhibitor.”

Interesting Facts About Asparagus

More than just the look of asparagus is unique: Check out these interesting facts about this harbinger of spring.2,3 First, you may not be aware of asparagus’ status as one of only a few garden-grown perennial vegetables. You need only plant it once. Cared for properly, it will return faithfully year after year, sometimes for decades.

Second, it’s important to know asparagus plants are monoecious, which means they can be either male or female. The difference is in their leaves and seed-bearing ability. Female plants are the seed bearers, featuring flowers that have well-developed, three-lobed pistils. Male blossoms do not bear seeds and are noticeably larger and longer.

Third, although green asparagus is most common, purple and white varieties also exist. Purple varieties tend to have less fibers than green asparagus, and they also boast a higher sugar content. You may wonder how white asparagus is produced, especially because it is actually the same plant as green asparagus.

The only difference is it is grown covered to inhibit the process of photosynthesis. If you’ve ever wondered why white asparagus is much higher priced than green, now you know. The labor involved in the blanching process drives up the cost. Notably, in continental Europe, due to its short growing season and high demand, white asparagus commands a premium price and is often slathered with vinaigrette or hollandaise.4

For the Highest Yields, Try a ‘Jersey’ Variety

Most avid gardeners would agree that it is nearly impossible to select bad asparagus. In particular, varieties with “Jersey” in their name, which indicates they were bred in New Jersey to be all male, will produce higher yields.5 That said, since asparagus is long-lasting, it’s important you select a variety that is well suited for your area.

In the U.S., asparagus grows best in hardiness zones 4 to 9.6 Mother Earth News7 recommends Guelph Millennium for cold climates and Apollo and UC-157 for warm climates. Gardeners in zones 4 to 6 enjoy a wider selection of varieties, including Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight. Other popular choices include:8

  • Brock Imperial: a high yield variety
  • Mary Washington: rust resistant and the most commonly found variety
  • Princeville: does well in warmer climates
  • Purple Passion: a sweet purple variety

Tips on Choosing a Spot for Asparagus in Your Garden

When making a plan to grow asparagus, carefully consider the following:9,10

  • Height: Since asparagus plants grow quite tall — as high as 5 feet (1.5 meters) — make sure you plant them in a location where they will not overshadow smaller neighboring plants
  • Location: Due to its perennial nature, asparagus will come back on its own year after year, possibly for 15 to 20 years — making it a somewhat permanent fixture in your garden
  • Soil: Asparagus thrives in lighter, compost-rich soil that drains well; a soil pH in the neutral 6.0 to 7.0 range is ideal
  • Space: Allow about 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) for each plant, although in the early years the plants won’t spread out much; once established, however, you will be surprised at how much space they will fill
  • Sun: While asparagus can tolerate some shade, you can help minimize disease and ensure more vigorous plants by placing them in direct sun; insufficient daily sunlight will result in thin spears and weak plants

You also should be aware of the two options you have when planting asparagus: using seeds or 1-year-old crowns.

How to Plant Asparagus From Seeds

According to Rodale’s Organic Life,11 while starting asparagus from seed takes patience and a few extra steps, seed-grown plants are cheaper and unaffected by transplant trauma. You can buy a whole packet of asparagus seed for roughly the same price you’d pay for a single asparagus crown. Seed-grown asparagus plants are heartier, generally out-producing those started from roots.

If you grow seeds, you will also be able to selectively discard female asparagus plants and cultivate an all-male bed. Male plants generally produce higher yields than female plants. Plants can be started from seed about four weeks before the last expected frost. In northern climates, you can start seedlings indoors in late February or early March. Sow single seeds in biodegradable pots and place them in a sunny window.

Early on, you may need to use bottom heat to maintain the temperature of the pots at 77 degrees F (25 C). When the seeds sprout, you can lower the temperature by about 10 degrees. When the danger of frost has passed, plant the seedlings 2 to 3 inches, or 5.1 to 7.6 centimeters (cm), deep in a nursery bed. Once tiny flowers appear, use a magnifying glass to weed out the female plants and transplant the males to their permanent location in the garden.

Growing Asparagus From Crowns

Most people, especially anyone new to growing asparagus, will find it easier to use crowns.12,13 If for no other reason, using crowns will eliminate the year of tedious weeding that often accompanies starting asparagus plants from seed! Crowns, which are readily available in the spring, have the appearance of an old string mop.

When selecting crowns, choose ones that are fresh and firm, not mushy or withered. Skip the 2-year-old crowns due to the transplant shock they’ve likely experienced. Besides, they generally do not produce any quicker than the 1-year variety. Purchase the crowns only when you are ready to plant them, and plant them immediately, if possible.

Digging a trench is the most common way to plant asparagus crowns. Your trench should measure about 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) deep and 18 to 20 inches (45.7 to 50.8 cm) wide. Place it at the center of the garden bed. This is the best time to work any available manure or compost material into the soil. Rodale’s Organic Life suggests soaking the crowns in compost tea for 20 minutes prior to planting for improved results.14

Spread the roots out on the bottom of the trench. Be sure to space them 12 to 15 inches (30.5 to 38.1 cm) apart to ensure they will have room to grow. Cover each plant with 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) of soil, and water well. As the plants begin to grow — about two weeks later — add more dirt. Continue adding dirt on a regular basis to cover the asparagus until only a small portion of each shoot is exposed above ground and the trench has been filled completely.

Maintaining Your Asparagus Garden Bed

The keys to a successful annual crop of asparagus hinges on how well you maintain your garden bed. The following activities will help ensure your success:15,16,17

Weed rigorously around the plants, especially in the early years, to prevent weeds from choking out the shoots and reducing your yields
Apply mulch around the plants to retain moisture, for winter protection and to help reduce the presence of weeds
Water regularly during the first two years after planting; later on, when the plants have deeper roots, watering will be less critical
Fertilize by top-dressing with a liquid fertilizer, such as compost tea, in both the spring and fall; some also suggest a dose of fertilizer in mid-spring due to the heavy-feeding needs of asparagus
Remove and destroy the fernlike foliage prior to the appearance of any new growth because it is known to harbor diseases and pest eggs, such as those from asparagus beetles
Heap up soil or mulch over the bed before shoots emerge if you desire white asparagus
Cut plants to the ground each year, preferably in the fall, but most certainly before new growth starts

Pests That Can Ruin Your Asparagus Crop

Your No. 1 threat to a good asparagus crop is the asparagus beetle,18,19 which will chew on spears in spring and often attacks summer foliage. These beetles are characterized by their metallic blue-black shells, which feature three white or yellow spots. They measure about one-quarter of an inch (0.64 cm).

Asparagus beetles lay dark eggs along plant leaves, which hatch into brown or light gray larvae featuring black heads and feet. You can remove them by hand or control them using a dust or spray. When removing beetles by hand, do so early in the morning when it’s too cool for them to escape by flying away. Other potential pests include the 12-spotted asparagus beetle, which is reddish brown and bears six black spots on each wing, and the asparagus miner, which is known for the zigzag tunnels it makes on stalks.

What You Need to Know About Harvesting Asparagus

One of the hardest parts of cultivating asparagus is waiting for your first harvest. Here’s what you need to know about harvesting this tender vegetable.20,21,22

During the first two years, because the plants need to put all their energy into establishing deep roots, gardening experts recommend you do not attempt a harvest. In year three, you can harvest finger-sized spears that are about 8 inches (20.3 cm) long for a period of four weeks. In the fourth year, you can harvest spears for up to eight weeks. Harvest in early spring, every third day or so.

When the weather turns warm, depending on production, you may need to cut your asparagus twice a day. For best results, use a sharp knife to cut asparagus spears at, or directly below, ground level. Refrigerate cut asparagus promptly. Blanch spears prior to freezing. Pickling is another option.

The Best Part of Growing Asparagus: Eating It!

Not only is asparagus crunchy, flavorful and succulent, but also, it is good for you. Undoubtedly, the best part about growing this tasty vegetable is eating it! Tender asparagus spears are a welcome addition to every meal. Light cooking, such as steaming for eight to 10 minutes, increases the bioavailability of asparagus’ healthy compounds.

For breakfast, asparagus is wonderful when added to an omelet. At lunch, you can add raw or lightly steamed asparagus to a salad. For dinner, serve asparagus grilled, roasted or steamed as a compliment to any grass fed, organic meat or, my personal favorite, wild-caught Alaskan salmon. For a flavorful and healthy side dish, try my Roasted Asparagus and Fennel recipe.

No matter how you serve it, asparagus is a superfood that I highly recommend become a mainstay on your shopping list. By the way, you’ll be happy to know asparagus contains low levels of pesticide residue, which means you can safely purchase and eat the conventional type.

Finally, if you notice an unusual odor after eating asparagus, most likely when you urinate, do not be alarmed. According to WebMD,23 only roughly 25 percent of the population possess the special gene that can detect this particular smell. If you are one of those who can, don’t worry, while it may be a nuisance, there is no cause for alarm.