Category Archives: gmo


Top tips for clean eating

Three Top Tips For Clean Eating

What is clean eating?

There’s a lot of media exposure and talk about “clean eating” but what is it exactly? The widely accepted definition is that clean eating means avoiding highly processed foods, refined sugars, and eating a diet rich in whole foods in their most natural state. For fruits and vegetables that means buying organic for The Dirty Dozen. When it comes to animal products, it means buying free-range or pastured with no antibiotics, pesticides, or added hormones.

For some people a clean eating diet also means no gluten.  The challenge with going gluten-free (whether on a clean eating diet or not) is that you need to avoid the gluten-free crutch foods that are scattered all over the grocery store shelves. These highly processed gluten alternatives are not a healthy choice.

1. Start with breakfast

Many people often skip breakfast, possibly because they’re running late or they’re too busy to stop and have a meal. But breakfast is how you fuel your body for the day ahead. If you are going to have breakfast, don’t just choose simple carbohydrates or a fast food option. You want a real food breakfast that will provide healthy fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates.

2. Simple Swaps

  • Hummus is a great alternative to mayonnaise. But instead of being mostly fat, it’s mostly protein. And it has a similar consistency to mayo making it perfect for wraps, dressings, and spreads. If you’re buying it in the store be sure to read the label in order to make sure you are getting the cleanest possible option. Or make it really clean by simply making your own at home.
  • If you’re looking for yogurt it’s easy to be distracted by the fruit-flavored varieties on the dairy case shelves. But the prepared fruit yogurts tend to come with excessively high levels of sugar and may also have other artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, none of which you want on a clean eating plan. Instead choose plain, whole milk yogurt, either regular or Greek-style and add your own sweeteners and flavoring. Options could include fruit, honey, chopped nuts, or delicious spices like cinnamon.
  • Our modern diet has led us to feel that we have to have rice or potatoes or pasta with a meal. We’ve been taught that you “need” a starch. If you feel you still want that to make your meal complete, choose more complex carbohydrates like riced cauliflower, sweet potatoes, or simply double up on your veggies. Cauliflower can also be used as a substitute for mashed potatoes without too much extra effort.
  • Salad and dressing seem to naturally go together. Unfortunately, if you take the time to read the label on the back of the bottle it’s not good news. Filled with loads of preservatives and artificial ingredients, these are definitely not part of the clean eating ideal. Instead make your own vinaigrette by combining 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the herbs or seasonings of your choice.

3. Don’t Do This

Just as important as all the things listed above that you want to do, there are few things that you need to keep in mind to not do:

  • An easy way to clean up your diet is to skip those foods that are most highly processed and offer the least nutrition. That includes white rice, pasta, cookies, crackers, and chips. Choose nutrient-dense foods that will actually support your health like raw nuts, veggies, and quality proteins.
  • Juices, juice drinks, and soft drinks are empty calories. Truthfully they’re nothing more than liquid candy bars. They provide little to no nutritional value and should be avoided. Eat those fruits instead of juicing them so you can enjoy the fiber which helps to slow down how quickly the sugars hit your bloodstream. If you’re thirsty choose water, herbal teas, or home-made green juices instead.
  • We’ve been misled to believe that artificial fats like margarine are good for us. We’ve also been guided towards vegetable fats like canola or corn oil. What you really want is healthy fats like butter, ghee, or beneficial oils like avocado, olive, and coconut. These are nourishing, satiating, and supportive.

As you start your clean eating journey it can be helpful to use a food journal so that you can see the progress that you’re making. It’s also important to remember that it’s not easy to make all of these changes at once. Baby steps are the key to success here. Start with one thing, like eating breakfast or making a healthy swap. Master that and then move on to the next thing. Before you know it you’ll be well versed in what those clean eating choices are and you’ll be focused on your health goals.

Clean eating is a good step towards a healthy life. In fact, it’s one of the #IngredientsForAHealthyLife. If you’re looking to do even more and clean up not just your diet but your lifestyle, be sure to check out the Lean Clean Green subscription box

Shopping The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store

Is it Safe on the Outside?

There are over 50,000 items for sale in a typical grocery store. The sad truth is that most of them are not food. They are processed conglomerations of ingredients. Because of this, there’s a common myth that if you shop the perimeter of the grocery store you’ll be “safe” from food challenges. More and more people are shopping just the “outside” of the grocery store, convinced that if they avoid what’s in the middle they’re only getting healthy food. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Most grocery stores are set up in a similar pattern. Walk into the produce section which is usually near the bakery or the deli. Moving around the outside edges, the perimeter, of the grocery store you’ll find the fish counter, meat, poultry. The dairy section is at the back of the store. This is because the further into the store you have to walk to buy staple ingredients, such as milk, eggs, and butter, the more time you spend in the store. The longer you are there the more money you are likely to spend. On the inside aisles is where you’ll find all of the packaged, canned, and frozen foods. You often have to walk through them to get from one section to the next, increasing the possibility that you will be tempted by what is in the aisles.

Does It Belong Here?

While the fresh food is usually found on the perimeter of the grocery store it’s important to be aware of two big issues that impact that section of the grocery store. The first is something called product placement or product creep. Grocery stores and food producers are well aware that consumers are purchasing more heavily from the outer edges of the store. Their job, however, is to sell as much as they can. One way they try to influence consumers is by moving in items that would not normally be in a particular section (but that go with those foods).

One example of this would be finding packaged shortcake, glaze for strawberries, and cool whip or some form of canned whipped cream in the produce section at the height of strawberry season. The grocery store may attempt to promote this as being “for your convenience” but the truth is it’s there to tempt you to purchase it and to increase their sales and profits.

Unfortunately, if you don’t take the time to read the labels you may get more than you bargained for. That glaze for strawberries, for example, contains genetically modified ingredients, excessive sugars, artificial colors, and possibly MSG. Rather than just getting fresh fruit, if you purchase these add-on items you’re also buying a wide range of chemicals and additives which may be harmful to your health.

This happens all around the grocery store. Salad dressings by the salad, seasoning mixes and marinades by the meat, etc. Product placement is a big factor for grocery stores. As a matter of fact, food manufacturers pay something called a slotting fee to grocery stores to determine where in the store their product will appear. This idea of manipulating the perimeter is a big reason that eggs and dairy are all the way in the back of the store. The grocery chain, and by extension the food manufacturers, are looking to get you to spend as much time in the store as possible and encourage impulse buying. They know that the longer you are there the more you will spend.

What’s In What You’re Eating?

Another major concern with shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is not just what the food items are, but what’s in them. Unfortunately, it’s things that we can’t really see that pose an even bigger challenge to health.

Produce

When shopping in the produce department the second thing you need to be aware of is the Dirty Dozen. Those twelve fruits and vegetables which are highly contaminated by pesticides. Eating them increases the toxic body burden. This list changes each year as the Environmental Working Group evaluates the current state of pesticides and toxins used to grow produce. The only way to avoid the toxic burden of the Dirty Dozen is to purchase organic for those twelve fruits and vegetables. To make it easy to remember the list (and stay on top of the changes) simply download the Environmental Working Group’s free app, EWG Healthy Living (ios and android).

Meat and Poultry

In the meat and poultry section buying organic is your best choice. Conventionally raised animals are given high levels of antibiotics, partially to keep them healthy in spite of the crowded conditions they are raised in. It’s also because these antibiotics act as a growth stimulator. Unfortunately, the antibiotics are passed on through the to end product when we then wind up consuming them. It’s important to note that the overuse of antibiotics in farming has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bugs. Conventionally raised animals are also allowed to be raised on genetically modified (GM) feed which is often heavily laden with pesticides. These items can have an impact on your body as well as affecting the environment. Note that the term “natural” is not the same as organic. Although there are some rules around the natural label when it comes to meat products, this label still allows for the use of GM/pesticide-laden feed. The only way to avoid added hormones, pesticides, and genetic modification is to choose organic.

Dairy

The dairy section is another area of concern. Not only because of the antibiotics, GM feed, and high levels of pesticides found in conventionally sourced dairy products, but also because of added hormones. rBST sometimes referred to as rBGH, is a growth hormone which causes cows to produce more milk. Studies have shown that dairy with rBGH tends to have more Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). This, in turn, has been linked to cancer, specifically of the breast, prostate and gastrointestinal tract. Although it is possible to do the research and avoid dairy with added hormones if it is conventionally raised all of the other issues still remain. Once again, choosing organic is the best, healthiest option.

Summary

  • Be on the lookout for product creep — items that are in a category where they don’t belong
  • Be mindful of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetable, buying organic for those choices
  • Choose organic meats to avoid added hormones and antibiotics
  • Avoid added hormones and antibiotics in dairy products by choosing organic
  • Read labels to help you avoid negative ingredients
glyphosate, is it safe?

The Dangers Of Glyphosate

What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, popular weedkiller, currently used in yards, parks, and farms all over the world. Controversy has long reigned over the use of this highly effective herbicide, due to its potentially dangerous effects on health and on the natural environment. Many highly respected researchers, including Dr. Stephanie Seneff at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, have been looking into the effects of glyphosate for many years. As a result of all of this research, there is now a considerable body of evidence against its use in gardening and agriculture.

In agriculture, we have seen a sharp rise in the amount of genetically modified crops, created to be resistant to Roundup, i.e., glyphosate. By modifying the crops, so the thinking went, farmers could spray Roundup on the crops with abandon. Although we have seen an increasing amount of genetically modified crops, we also now have a number of glyphosate-resistant weeds. This, quite obviously, defeats the purpose of spraying crops with herbicide.

Not Just For Weeds

In addition to its uses as a weed killer, glyphosate is also being sprayed on a variety of crops to dry them out before harvesting.  Currently, it’s being used on a wide variety of crops including:

  • buckwheat
  • corn
  • flax
  • lentils
  • millet
  • non-GMO soybeans
  • oats
  • potatoes
  • rye
  • sugar beets
  • wheat

This widespread usage is causing more glyphosate to appear in the food supply. Even at levels above EPA guidelines, which have been already been found by experts to be too high. This excessive exposure only adds to the overall body burden and increases the damage to the environment and to our health.

Health Risks

For many people, the biggest concern around glyphosate is its potential effects on human health. The health risks could be wide-ranging. Scientists have suggested links between the use of glyphosate and conditions including auto-immune diseases, autism, and problems with the body’s natural microbiome. Some studies even suggest that it could contribute to a range of common cancers, including breast cancer and certain types of leukemia.

The Microbiome

In 2013, a study by Dr. Stephanie Seneff and Dr. Anthony Samsel showed that glyphosate inhibits the activity of cytochrome P450, which is an important human enzyme. By interfering with this enzyme, it increases the damaging effects of other dangerous chemicals, reduces the body’s resilience to toxins, and contributes to inflammation. The results of these effects include gastrointestinal disorders which are associated with disturbances in the gut microbiome.

Gout

In another study, Dr. Stephanie Seneff and her colleagues argue that glyphosate-induced changes to the microbiome contribute to the epidemic of gout that is present in the developed world today. Like many gastrointestinal diseases, gout is a condition that is characterized by inflammation. Seneff’s findings suggest that traces of glyphosate in the diet could be the primary factor in the recent dramatic rise in gout cases in the United Kingdom.

Cancer

In another study, Dr. Anthony Samsel and Dr. Stephanie Seneff found correlations between the use of glyphosate on crops and a rise in the number of cases of a range of common cancers, including breast cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, bladder cancer, liver cancer, and myeloid leukemia. These findings reflect the World Health Organization’s labeling of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic.” Some proponents of glyphosate argue that the amounts that are used on food crops are not large enough to cause cancer in humans, but it is difficult to precisely control the size of the dose of glyphosate that any particular individual receives from their diet.

Effects on the Natural Environment

In addition to its potentially harmful effects on human health, glyphosate also poses dangers for the environment. Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, recommends that people do not use the product close to fresh water because of its harmful effects on amphibians and other wildlife. However, it is not clear whether farmers and gardeners follow this recommendation. Even if they do make an effort to keep glyphosate away from sources of fresh water, rainwater, runoff can carry the product into streams and rivers, where it can wreak havoc on the health of fish and amphibians such as frogs. Furthremore, even if glyphosate does not directly kill fish and other wildlife, it can kill plants that these animals depend on for survival, causing ecological devastation that extends all the way up the food chain.

Depleting Nutrients From Soil

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosate binds tightly to particles of soil and can persist in the ground for up to six months after it is applied. Bacteria will gradually break it down, but many experts argue that the effect on the soil is long lasting. Healthy soil contains a range of minerals that plants need to grow, including magnesium, nitrogen, and phosphorous. Glyphosate can affect the concentrations of these nutrients in the soil, which could affect the ability of plants, including food crops, to grow and produce healthy fruits, vegetables, and seeds.

Friend or Foe?

Many gardeners and farmers rely on glyphosate because it is very good at killing unwanted plants and weeds. However, the dangers of glyphosate mean that its ability to get rid of weeds might not be worth the potential damage to our health and the environment. In particular, concerns over the damaging health effects of dietary glyphosate, as highlighted in the research of Dr. Stephanie Seneff, should give us pause before using glyphosate or purchasing foods that have been grown using this dangerous herbicide. The effects of glyphosate on the natural environment also should also not be ignored, as it could have potentially devastating effects on natural freshwater ecosystems.

Further reading

For more information about gluten and glyphosate:

 

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Sources

Ingredients Based On Corn

Corn is one of the most highly genetically modified (GM) ingredients in the United States.  Because of the challenges that genetic modification presents for our health and for the environment, I encourage people to eat organic corn. This also helps to avoid the high levels of pesticides and glyphosate used in growing the crop. The ability to use these chemicals are the primary reason for the genetic modification in the first place.  

Varieties of corn

There are many different forms of corn. When eating fresh, frozen or canned, it is sweet corn which only represents approximately 1% of all the corn we grow in the United States.  Field corn, sometimes referred to as dent corn, is the most common variety grown in the U.S. It represents nearly 60% of the entire corn crop. This variety is used for ethanol and livestock feed.   

Other uses for corn include corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup and in the confectionary business.  Popcorn is a separate variety. According to the Popcorn Board, the average American eats 42 quarts per year for a total consumption of 13 billion quarts.

Corn is also used in the textile industry and as a biodegradable plastic.

On the label

 Corn by itself is easy to identify in foods or on the label. The challenge is that it can be turned into a rather startling variety of ingredients. These ingredients make an appearance in nearly every single food category at the grocery store. This is problematic for the nearly 10 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with an allergy to corn. 

For those trying to avoid it, whether due to allergies or a desire to avoid GM contamination, it’s not always easy to know which ingredients got their start from corn.  If you’re looking to avoid GM products the easiest way is to choose either organic or GMO Project Verified products.  In the case of a food sensitivity or allergy use this list as a resource to help you know which products to avoid.

Corn-based ingredients

  • Ascorbic Acid – also sometimes listed as vitamin C
  • Baking Powder – this may contain cornstarch
  • Brown Sugar – made from white sugar with caramel coloring added 
  • Calcium Citrate – also known as ‘calcium salt of citric acid’ 
  • Caramel – coloring agent frequently used in soft drinks.  Can be made from cane sugar but most commonly made from corn; a known carcinogen
  • Cellulose – a form of plant fiber (note: this ingredient can also be made from wood) 
  • Citrate – this sour flavor enhancer comes in several different forms: Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, etc. 
  • Citric Acid – made by adding the mold Aspergillus niger to a base of corn steep liquor, molasses, hydrolyzed corn starch, or other cheap sweet solutions
  • Corn
  • Corn Meal – as well as being used for cooking, cornmeal can be used for dusting baked items
  • Corn Starch – may be found in OTC tablets
  • Corn Syrup – may be found in liquid OTC medications such as cough syrup
  • Decyl Glucoside – often found in shampoo and other personal care products
  • Dextrin, Maltodextrin – used as a  thickening agent for condiments, frozen confections, and other foods
  • Dextrose (glucose) – found in sweets, may also be present in processed meats
  • Ferrous Gluconate – an ingredient found in black olives
  • Flavoring – Artificial or “Natural Flavors” may be corn-based
  • Golden Syrup 
  • Honey – HFCS is sometimes fed to bees causing their honey to then have corn in it
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Iodized Salt – Dextrose may be added to iodized salt to help stabilize the iodine 
  • Lactic Acid 
  • Magnesium Citrate – Magnesium salt of citric acid
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Malic Acid
  • Malt/Malt Flavoring
  • Maltitol – a sugar alcohol made by hydrogenating maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Mannitol – This sugar alcohol is often blended with corn-based sugars
  • Methyl Gluceth – a cosmetic emollient
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – MSG can be made from corn
  • Polydextrose
  • Polysorbates (i.e. Polysorbate 80)
  • Potassium Citrate 
  • Powdered Sugar – may contain cornstarch
  • Saccharin
  • Sodium Citrate 
  • Sodium Erythorbate – may be made from beets, corn, or sugar cane
  • Sodium Starch Glycolate – may be made from corn, rice, or potatoes
  • Sorbitan – made by dehydrating sorbitol  
  • Sorbitan Monostearate – may be found in various types of yeast (baking, brewing)  
  • Sorbitol – this sugar alcohol often appears in diet candies or gum, can also be in oral care products
  • Starch – unless otherwise specified (such as potato starch) this is probably cornstarch
  • Sucralose – Splenda is often made with dextrose or maltodextrin 
  • Sweet’N Low – made with dextrin 
  • Vanilla Extract – may be made with corn syrup 
  • Vinegar, Distilled White 
  • Xanthan Gum – often grown on a base of corn or corn sugar 
  • Xylitol – can be made from birch or corn, in the US it is frequently corn
  • Zein – used in time-release medications

More Food Allergy Info

All About Eggs
Do You Have Oral Allergy Syndrome?
Food Intolerance Testing

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Ingredients To Avoid

I’m often asked which ingredients we should avoid in our food.  There really isn’t a simple answer for that.  I could say all of the fake ones, but that leaves you to decide which ones are fake.  And truthfully some of them aren’t “fake”, meaning they’re not entirely from chemicals.  They’re just highly modified.  Either because they’ve been through some sort of a chemical process to invert, alter, or manipulate their chemical structure to change them significantly from their original form. 

An overview of Splenda (TM)

A perfect example of manipulation is Splenda.  It started out as sugar (which some could argue is highly processed, stripped of all minerals and therefore not a great choice to begin with).  In processing it becomes modified by the addition of sucralose which is made by replacing three hydrogen-oxygen atoms and inserting three chlorine atoms in their place. Because it contains less than 5 calories per serving it’s labeled as having no calories.  (A single packet, weighing 1 gram, actually provides 3.36 calories — a miniscule amount, however this is still misleading labeling).

Unfortunately Splenda (TM) is far from the harmless non-nutritive sweetener that it’s advertised to be.  It has been shown to alter intestinal pH and reduces intestinal microflora.  We need a balanced pH for good health.  We also require beneficial levels of bacteria to help support good digestive health.

According to one report published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, there seems to be some evidence that Splenda (TM) may not be as biologically inert as advertised.  It also appears that exposure to high temperatures can cause it to break down into a toxic substance.

Ingredient Overview

While I frequently write about what ingredients are, where they appear, and other information you need to be aware of in the newsletter, I also recognize that it’s helpful to have a “cheat sheet” of sorts to give you an overview and help you break it down a little bit further.  So I’ve created the infographic below.  These are my top ten “baddies” and the ones that you really want to watch out for.  Print it out, write it down, whatever you need to do to be able to bring this information with you to the grocery store. 

top-10-ingredients-to-avoid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking for more in-depth information about ingredients your best resource is The Pantry Principle:  how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food. 

For regular, weekly updates on what’s going on in the world of food manufacturing and processing be sure to check out my newsletter, Food News You Can Use.

 

 

What’s That Flavor?

what's that flavor

Food manufacturers are always looking for new ways to keep consumers engaged with their brands.  They’re also looking for new ways to encourage you to eat, or a new flavor to tempt you with.  After all, the more you eat, the more profitable their product is.  Unfortunately this has turned us into a nation of snackers.

We’ve been so effectively marketed to that we think we have to have snacks.  Even more than that, when we say the word snack most people think chips, pretzels, granola bars, or other high carbohydrate foods which deliver a lot of calories and little to no actual nutrition.  

a snack is not a meal

Unfortunately the more we snack the less hungry we are when meal time comes around.  So perhaps we don’t eat a real meal.  And then a couple of hours later we’re hungry again and it’s time for another snack.  By the time you get to the end of the day it’s possible that you’ve simply snacked for the entire day.  You go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again. The challenge is that you’re just making yourself hungrier and hungrier.  Your belly may be full, but your body is not nourished.

Snacking is not meant to replace mealtime.  It’s a mini-meal.  A little something to keep you going if you’re hungry in between regular, nourishing meals.  Preferably something that has a little protein and a healthy fat.  Healthy snacking can help to keep your blood sugar stable.  All day snacking, especially with high carbohydrate snack foods can put you in the front row seat of the blood sugar rollercoaster.

manufacturer manipulation

As part of their effort to keep you snack-engaged, food manufacturers sometimes run campaigns designed to get consumer feedback on flavors.  One example is the Pepsi Co. “Do Us A Flavor” campaign which they’ve been running since 2012.  [I’m deliberately not linking to it because I don’t want to participate in bringing attention to it — you’ll see why in just a minute]  Thanks to this campaign they’ve come up with different, unusual flavors of potato chips such as Korean Barbeque or Smoked Gouda and Chives.  Some manufacturers are looking to build brand excitement by “retiring” flavors or creating “limited editions” in an effort to create a scarcity effect.

By creating these campaigns the manufacturers are hoping to build further brand engagement.  To hook you a little bit more closely to the brand.  They don’t need to guess at developing new products.  Consumers tell them exactly what they want so the manufacturer can make it.  It allows them to save money and tempt you to eat more snacks.

All of these flavors, however, don’t add up to good nutrition.  They simply add up to more chemicals and more calories. 

new flavors

 

resources

If you’re looking for a healthy snack check out this article on protein snacks to boost energy.

Want to know more about flavors and how they’re used in food?  

When you’re looking for a snack, remember, a snack is not a meal.  Choose a little something with some protein in it and have just enough to get through your day to your next meal.  You’ll feel better and your metabolism will be more balanced because of it.

Hormel’s Vital Cuisine — Ingredient Review

Food niches

Food producers like to target niche markets where they believe they can capitalize on the desire of the consumer in that group to eat according to their needs.  Categories may include diet or weight loss products, items aimed at athletes, or those who follow a particular dietary protocol such as Atkins, South Beach, Gluten Free, etc.  

The latest target niche is cancer.  Hormel Foods, in partnership with the Cancer Nutrition Consortium, has developed a line of Ready To Eat (RTE) foods aimed at those undergoing cancer treatment.  Often people in this situation experience a wide range of issues when it comes to their food.  These can include lack of appetite or a change in tastes and eating sensations.  Coupled with a lack of energy, plus the physiological changes of treatment this often leads many people undergoing cancer treatment to be undernourished.  They frequently do better with nutrient dense, higher protein meals.

What’s in the box?

Unfortunately the choices developed by Hormel Foods do not represent the best options for nutrition as many of the ingredients are less than desirable.  Some are even known to cause cancer.  This is a rather upsetting thought when one considers that the item is aimed at those going through treatment for cancer who are presumably have a weaker immune system.  Below is a slideshow highlighting examples from the Vital Cuisine line.

 

I find it astounding and rather appalling that a company would put ingredients known to cause cancer into a food product designed for those going through this very condition.  

What to eat?

As mentioned above, the best food choices for those who are undergoing treatment for cancer are real, nourishing, nutrient dense foods. I always encourage people to read the label.  When dealing with a health-care crisis this becomes even more important.  While it may be overwhelming to learn how to understand the body’s nutritional needs when dealing with cancer, there are resources out there.  A couple of my favorite books are:

Screenshot 2016-05-09 18.35.54

The Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Rebecca Katz

 

 

 

Screenshot 2016-05-09 18.52.18 The Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Nutritional Approach for Preventing Recurrance by Edward Bauman and Helayne Waldman

 

 

 

The idea of niche marketing for specific health conditions is quite probably a new category of foods.  Who knows, we may find ourselves seeing foods designed to support those with arthritis, gout, or ulcerative colitis on the shelf next. As always it is important to look past the hype and the labeling.  Be informed, read the label, and eat well.

Boy Scout Popcorn – What’s In That Bag?

It’s Girl Scout cookie time. Everywhere you turn, at the grocery store, at the mall, outside shopping centers, are young girls dressed in their uniforms, selling cookies.  And if you live in suburbia, they’re knocking at the door, earnest little faces selling what is arguably one of America’s favorite cookies. However people are more aware of what’s really in those cookies and it seems like everywhere you turn people are complaining about the trans-fats, the GMOs, plus all the other negative ingredients.  The Food Babe even wrote an article dissecting the cookies and their ingredients.  *

I was talking about this with someone recently and she mentioned that she no longer buys Girl Scout Cookies because as much as she loves them she doesn’t want to eat all of the negative ingredients. Then she followed up with, “Thank goodness popcorn is safe. Because I love my Boy Scout Scout popcorn, we always buy enough to last the whole year.”  Ummm, excuse me? Well that’s a big whoops. Everyone is so focused on the Girl Scouts and their cookie sales that no one is really paying attention to Boy Scout Popcorn. Unfortunately it’s not as great as you might think. Let’s take a moment and look at the label of just two of the different flavors.

What’s In The Popcorn?

Mira_PopcornInfoGraph1_FIN

Mira_PopcornInfoGraph2_FIN

Important points

More than just what’s in the infographic is the story behind a few of the ingredients:

  • The dairy products are most likely to be from conventionally raised cows. These animals are given antibiotics, a lot of antibiotics.  In fact some estimates are that more than 70% of all antibiotics prescribed in this country are given to animals, not to directly to humans.  Studies have shown that overuse of antibiotics does contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria. You can read more about it here, here and here.
  • Citric Acid sounds safe enough, most of us think of it as being sourced from citrus fruits. Unfortunately in the world of food production that would be too time consuming and too expensive. This citric acid is most likely to be made from fermenting mold with genetically modified corn. Virtually all of the citric acid in the U.S. is manufactured this way.
  • By now many of you are aware of the fact that trans-fats have been banned. However manufacturers have until 2018 to remove them completely from their products and they can apply to the FDA for a permit allowing them to continue to use it.

In August when the Boy Scouts start knocking on your door you may want to reconsider buying that popcorn. By all means, continue to support your local troop; but consider making a donation directly to them rather than buying the popcorn.

And if you want popcorn? My suggestion is to make it at home. Here’s my favorite recipe:

 

Delicious Noosh Popcorn
Print
Ingredients
  1. organic popcorn
  2. 2-3 tablespoons organic cold pressed coconut oil
  3. 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  4. 1-2 tablespoons dulse flakes
  5. 1 tablespoon Himalayan sea salt
Instructions
  1. Pop popcorn in hot air popper according to directions
  2. While popcorn is popping melt coconut oil
  3. In a separate bowl mix together nutritional yeast, dulse, and salt
  4. When popcorn is done drizzle coconut oil over popcorn
  5. Sprinkle dry mix over popcorn and oil
  6. Mix well to combine
  7. Enjoy
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
 

Full disclosure: I used to be a Girl Scout, a Girl Scout Leader, and I raised three Girl Scouts. There was a lot of cookie love going on in our house for years. But all of that was before I became more conscious about ingredients. At this point when Girls Scouts I know ask for the sale my response is to simply make a donation to the troop. 

Sour And Tangy Flavor Trend

Sour flavors have piqued our collective interest, on par with the spice craze.  This consumer trend toward tangy flavors seems to have less to do with competitive one-upsmanship (as with spicy foods) and more to do with a movement toward wellness, artisanal foods, and ethnic cuisines.

More and more people are reaching for greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented foods due to their probiotic content and known health benefits.  As of 2013, Greek yogurt had expanded its market share from a mere one percent in 2007, to more than one third of the entire yogurt market.  Research has shown that fermented foods provide important nutrients, support beneficial bacteria for your gut flora and can help optimize your immune system.

Others have been introduced to sour tastes through Asian cuisine and ethnic dishes like kimchee.  Alongside the wellness fermentation trend, chefs are experimenting with pickling and other techniques to create sour flavors from cultures around the world.  In fact, Katherine Alford, a vice president at the Food Network says [quote]Sour flavors are having a national moment.[/quote]

This trend has invaded commercial industries as well.  There has been a large buzz surrounding sour beers with large distributers like New Belgium creating a new series of sour beers in light of their growing popularity in the United States.  Craft brewers all over are also trying to perfect the style, which involves intentionally spoiling the beer with good bacteria, the same microbes that make yogurt and miso.

Sadly, not all sour foods are healthy choices.  Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc., saw a ten-fold increase in sales for sour gum in 2014 and has thus pronounced 2016 “the year of the sours” with plans to unveil several new sour candies and gums.  Pringles currently touts a tube of XTRA Screamin’ Dill Pickle chips with a dare: “Brave one bite and you’ll be hooked on the aggressive taste that won’t quit.”

Citric Acid

Unfortunately, this type of forceful advertising and manipulative use of sour flavoring highlight some concerns.  Citric acid – sometimes referred to as sodium citrate – is commonly the additive used to enhance flavor and provide the tangy, pucker-inducing taste that has become so popular.  This innocuous sounding additive is not commercially sourced from citrus fruits as you might think.  Instead, black mold is used to cheaply convert sugars into citric acid.  The sugars used in this process are often derived from cornstarch and the corn is highly likely to be genetically modified.

As a result, mass-produced citric acid is a hidden GMO ingredient that reportedly sets off allergenic responses in some sensitive consumers.  It is also known as an accomplice to the creation of benzene – a known human carcinogen.  It is often used like MSG, added widely to enhance and intensify flavors, while also functioning as a preservative.

Citric Acid is Commonly Added To
Symptoms of Citric Acid Sensitivity
  • Ice cream and sorbets
  • Caramel and other processed sweets
  • Sodas, cider, beer and wine
  • Many canned and jarred foods (preserves, canned fruits/vegetables, sauces, and even baby food)
  • Baked goods and cake mixes
  • Mouth ulcers or rashes
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, or diarrhea
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Headaches
  • Acid reflux in infants
  • Other symptoms of food allergy

How to Avoid Citric Acid

The FDA and international food regulating agencies consider citric acid to be a harmless additive despite public concern regarding these apparent sensitivities.  As always, read labels to avoid citric acid and other harmful additives.  Enjoy sour flavors healthfully and naturally with homemade kombucha, fermented foods and organic yogurt.

Coconut Milk — Not As Healthy As You’d Think

Screenshot 2015-02-05 22.48.50

Big news!  Yesterday, Wednesday, February 4 2015, Starbucks announced that they would start offering coconut milk as a non-dairy option. It’s scheduled to appear at a Starbucks near you beginning on February 17, 2105. Normally that would be a great option, especially for someone like me who is currently dealing with food sensitivities and needs to avoid dairy.  It’s also potentially better than their current non-dairy option, soymilk, which is quite possibly genetically modified.

While I don’t drink coffee I do like an occasional green tea latte.  However, on closer inspection it turns out this isn’t going to be an option for me either.  The ingredients panel shows several items that I can’t consume and a couple more that I choose not to.

Let’s start with carrageenan.  It’s a red seaweed which has been shown to be problematic for those with digestive issues.   Not just those who have serious bowel health issues such as crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, carrageenan can also affect those who struggle with bloating or gas issue.  Many of them find that they do much better when they avoid carrageenan.  For more information check out this report by the Cornucopia Institute.  In fact many people who struggle with carrageenan also have issues with excessive amounts of gums in food products.  This coconut milk also contains gellan gum, xanthan gum, and guar gum.

For ingredients I choose not to consume, and which I advocate others avoid as well, we see “natural” flavors [quotes are mine] which could mean anything and sometimes is a code for monosodium glutamate.  There’s also corn dextrin which, because it doesn’t specifically say organic, could be genetically modified.  While coconut milk itself isn’t genetically modified, corn is one of the most highly GMO crops we have and conventional corn products should be avoided as much as possible.   The vitamin A palmitate is most likely a synthetic form of palmitic acid; it’s used to fortify dairy products.

There are coconut milks that do not contain these products however some of them contain a gum, usually guar gum, to help with thickening the coconut milk.  Be sure to read the label to avoid ingredients you don’t want to eat.

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Update:  A reader wrote in and told me that Starbucks was aligned with Monsanto and supported opposition to GMO labeling.  Research shows that Starbucks is not directly affiliated with Monsanto other than that they both belong to the Grocery Manufacturers Association which is vigorously opposed to GMO labeling.   Starbucks claims to be an “affiliate” member and in a direct quote from Starbuck’s website:

Starbucks is not a part of any lawsuit pertaining to GMO labeling nor have we provided funding for any campaign. And Starbucks is not aligned with Monsanto to stop food labeling or block Vermont State law.

The petition claiming that Starbucks is part of this litigation is completely false and we have asked the petitioners to correct their description of our position. 

Starbucks has not taken a position on the issue of GMO labeling. As a company with stores and a product presence in every state, we prefer a national solution.