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5 Ways to Eat Healthy: What Big Food Doesn't Want You to Know

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5 Ways to Eat Healthy: What Big Food Doesn't Want You to Know

Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) new Dietary Guidelines give people solid nutrition advice and highlight the shortcomings of the Obama administration's Dietary Guidelines for Americans released earlier this month, which were confusing to consumers and overly influenced by the $1 trillion-a-year food industry.

“These guidelines serve the public interest, not the vested interests,” Ken Cook, president and co-founder of EWG, said.

The government’s guidelines watered down evidence that a plant-based diet is better for health and the environment by not clearly advising Americans to eat less meat. These guidelines did not explain the serious health risks of exposure to mercury in certain fish. Nor did they urge people to cut down on soft drinks, the main source of added sugars in the American diet.

“What we eat probably has greater impact on our health and well-being than nearly any other choice we make,” Emily Cassidy, research analyst and one of the authors of EWG’s Dietary Guidelines, said. “We know that a diet that is good for people’s health is better for land and water. Because of the business interests and politics at play, the federal government did not give people the solid guidance they need about how to eat a diet that is both healthy and good for the planet. EWG’s Dietary Guidelines do just that.”

"Today, we are fortunate to have consensus on what is (and isn't) better nutrition. It's not one-size fits all but it is based in the solid advice EWG presents here," Ashley Koff, RD, of The Better Nutrition Simplified Program, said.

The five key recommendations made in EWG’s Dietary Guidelines are:

1. Eat more vegetables and fruits. Avoid pesticides when you can. The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits. EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce is an easy-to-use list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticide residues.

2. Eat less meat, especially red and processed meat. Red and processed meats may cause cancer and heart disease; their production is bad for the environment.

3. Skip soft drinks and sugary and salty foods. Adults should limit added sugar to 6 to 12 teaspoons a day. Children should consume even less. A single canned soft drink contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, virtually a whole day’s worth of added sugar.

4. Eat healthy and sustainable seafood that’s low in mercury. Many Americans would benefit from eating more seafood rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. EWG’s Good Seafood Guide helps shoppers find fish and seafood richest in omega-3s, lowest in mercury contamination and sustainably caught.

5. Beware of processed foods with harmful chemicals. EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives describes some of the most worrisome additives and gives tips on how you can avoid them.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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