Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Maybe your 2014 New Year’s Resolution Should Be Eating Vegan Mayo

Why eat Vegenaise if you aren’t a vegan? Mayo can be enough of a culinary risk of its own (we try not to think about it too much). Well, apparently Vegenaise is AWESOME. So swears Slate writer Katherine Goldstein in the slightly hyperbolically titled “The Most Incredible Condiment You Probably Aren’t Using”:
The flavor was much lighter than regular mayo, and had a pleasing balance of flavors that made regular Hellmann’s taste both too sweet and too sour by comparison. Vegenaise’s texture is pleasantly smooth and airy, and much less goopy than store-bought mayo.
Did we mention that it’s made with solar power and is totally GMO-free? And it comes in fancy flavors like pesto, roasted garlic, and BBQ? OK, this is sounding pretty good …
As I tried it on a range of foods … slowly but surely, I realized its motto was right. Vegenaise, shockingly, tastes better than mayo. As an added bonus, it has less saturated fat and cholesterol than the regular stuff. And while many meat substitutes have ingredient lists that read like a science experiment, Vegenaise actually has no additives or preservatives.
Lest you discount Goldstein as a freak Vegenaise evangelist, she force-fed 15 coworkers the stuff, and 12 of them preferred it to regular mayo.

There’s only one way to find out if Vegenaise is actually better than mayonnaise, as its tagline claims: Try it. Hey, that’s a way better New Year’s resolution than going to the gym, right?
[via grist]

Monday, December 30, 2013

Beat the Holiday Blahs With These 5 Mood-Boosting Foods

"You're such a killjoy!" I chided my friend. Driving back from The Grove, a particular Christmas song came on the radio and she immediately changed stations.

I gave her a bewildered how could you hate the holidays? look. "Those songs just trigger unpleasant memories for me," she replied. "Compound those feelings with the pressure to buy perfect gifts and the stress of always being "on" for family, and well, I just feel exhausted. Is it January yet?"

While I love the holidays, I understand her frustration. Christmas dinner with your in-laws or standing in hours-long lines to buy gifts can challenge even the most optimistic, well-adjusted person. Never mind finding the perfect gift; can I get a parking spot, please?

More than just a blah feeling, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) diminishes the quality of life for many folks during the darker, colder, bleak winter months. Feeling depressed, sluggish, and wanting to bask in a deserted Hawaiian beach are typical symptoms.

If SAD or other depressive conditions hamper your quality of life, please visit your integrative physician, who can design a dietary and nutrient protocol for your situation. Depression can become a very real, debilitative situation that demands medical or other professional attention.

For most of us, optimal mood begins with the right foods. These mood-boosting foods can subtly but powerfully brighten your outlook, reduce stress, and boost feel-good hormones to help you not only cope but thrive during the hectic holiday season and beyond: 
  1. Omega-3-rich foods. Among their numerous benefits, omega-3 fatty acids positively affect mood, and a meta-analysis found they could even treat depressive disorders. I'm a big fan of fish oil for therapeutic omega-3 amounts, and you can get those same fatty acids in wild-caught fish, flaxseed and chia seeds and walnuts. 
  2. Higher-protein foods. Sure, carbs can potentially elevate your feel-good hormone serotonin, but you'll pay the price later. Ever eaten a big bowl of pasta and crashed about an hour later? A vicious cycle of craving and hunger ensues. Studies show you're twice as likely to choose less-healthy comfort foods when you feel low. Protein-rich foods like wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef and even quinoa, on the other hand, steady blood sugar levels for consistent mood and energy levels. 
  3. Dark chocolate. A very recent study found cocoa polyphenols enhance a positive mood. Dark chocolate (70 percent or higher cacao) provides those and other benefits. One study with healthy overweight or obese women food found polyphenol-rich dark chocolate improves glucose metabolism and cardiovascular health. Dark chocolate also triggers feel-good endorphins and reduces your stress hormone cortisol. A little bit goes a long way, so if chocolate is among your weaknesses, break off a serving and give the rest to your coworker or friend. 
  4. Raw nuts. I mentioned walnuts providing mood-enhancing omega-3s. Raw nuts provide other nutrients like tryptophan, a precursor to mood-brightening serotonin. Nuts and seeds are also rich in minerals like zinc, which boosts immunity, and magnesium, which helps you relax. One study found magnesium-deficient mice more prone to depression. There's more: nuts and seeds provide craving-busting, blood sugar-stabilizing protein, fiber and healthy fats. If you snack, make it nuts and portion them out because they're very easy to overeat. 
  5. Berries. Organic fresh or frozen berries provide powerful brain-protecting anthocyanins and other antioxidants. One study found blueberries boosted memory and improved mood in older adults. I throw fiber- and nutrient-rich raspberries into my morning protein shake. Berries also make a sweet, satisfying dessert.
Incorporate these five foods and you might soon feel that extra oomph you've found missing during the winter months. Your turn: Is there a particular food you find enhances your mood?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

How to Raise an Earth-Conscious Child

Children these days have many technological distractions that keep them busy and less connected with the environment. Whether it’s a video game, television program or computer screen, children are forgetting how to connect with their natural side. Many parents seem to be forgetting the importance of teaching children about their intrinsic connection to the earth and their role in protecting the planet for future generations. There are ways to help children cultivate an earth-conscious way of living.

Live By Example

Our children learn how to be in the world by learning from what their caregivers do. Firstly, turn the television off as much as possible. Children’s television shows are spaced out by commercials which target and manipulate children to want to buy more and want more of products that are wasteful and toxic. Educate yourself about ways to help protect our earth.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Teach your children about all the trash that can be recycled and where it ends up if it’s not. Children love activities where their creativity is challenged. A great idea is to ask your child to find reusable alternatives to disposable household items and turn the trash into treasures. For example, by using finished toilet and paper towel rolls, you can make a musical instrument by putting rice or beans in the roll and taping off both ends. Talk to your children about the importance of minimal packaging and what to recycle and reuse.


There’s nothing more magical than having a child plant a seed, nurture it, and begin to see it grow. This reminds them that all living things work together to thrive. As they watch their plants grow, children feel so proud and excited about spending time in their garden. If you do not have land to grow a garden, you can give your child a few pots to plant their veggies or flowers in and they will still be in awe and inspired. Plus, a child is more likely to eat a vegetable that they have nourished and watched grow.

Spend Time in Nature

Spend time with your children outdoors. Simply sit outdoors, have a picnic, take a nature walk, or maybe visit a beach. Allow your children to see the beauty that the earth contains and help them learn the interconnection of all living things. This will help them to keep our planet beautiful and consciously take care of it and not destruct it.

Spend Time with Animals

The simple connection between species reminds us of how mysterious life and nature are, and how much we happily cooperate in nature to exist. Children learn responsibility and compassion from spending time with animals. They learn to respect living things by simply being in an animal’s presence.

Get Dirty

Let your children walk barefoot when they play outside and let them get dirty. There has been research linking the connection to Earth’s natural energy and vibrant, balanced health.

Community Clean-up

Join your children and participate in cleaning up nature such as a beach clean-up or a creek clean-up. When children are a part of the cleaning up of their environment, they can see the change happening with their own eyes and that positivity inspires them to want to do more.

You do not need solar panels or land to teach children about the earth. Families can start in simple ways; like using cloth napkins instead of paper or bringing cloth bags for groceries. It is a good idea to set goals that you would like to achieve that benefit the environment. Start from where you are and what is around you. No pressure; just fun mixed with many rewards.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Salt Dough Ornaments

Working with salt dough is a fun and very inexpensive way to make some personalized heirloom ornaments this year. There is something so special about handmade ornaments. They give your home a personal feel and create lifelong memories for you and your children. They also make great gifts for friends and loved ones.

Making these heirloom holiday decorations is easier than you think. With this simple recipe you’ll have adorable, handmade (not to mention, non-toxic and eco-friendly) ornaments to show off to your friends and family.

What you'll need:
  • 4 cups organic, all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup fine sea salt
  • 1-1 1/2 cup warm water
  • Assorted cookie cutters
  • Paint, glitter or embellishments of choice
  • Ribbon (for hanging)

  1. Mix the flour and salt together well. Incorporate water a little bit at a time until you have a firm ball of dough. If the dough is too sticky, add small amounts of flour until the desired consistency is reached.
  2. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes. Make a small hole near the top for hanging. Carve in designs or features with a toothpick. Lift shape carefully when transferring to baking sheet.
  3. Bake on parchment lined baking sheet at 325º for 20 to 30 minutes or until completely hardened.
  4. Allow to cool, then decorate with paints, fabric scraps, ribbon, etc. or leave them to their natural beauty. Hang with ribbon or hooks anywhere you feel needs a little holiday cheer.
[via Vitacost]

Seven Reasons to Eat More Dark Chocolate

More and more health reasons for eating dark chocolate keep coming in. Many will be pointed out here, then explained further in the sources indicated by numbers in parenthesis. But first, understand that organic dark chocolate brought into the market place under fair trade agreements is best.

Some of the major cheap chocolate producers use child slaves in Africa to pick cacao. The more dark the chocolate with less sugar, milk, and other ingredients, the closer it is to cacao. A range of at least 70% to 90% cacao in dark chocolate is both tasty and healthy.

Milk chocolate contains milk, which negates the health benefits, and sugar, which feeds cancer cells. Avoid it.

According to Dr. Debra Miller's statement in Chemistry Central Journal , "Cacao seeds are a 'Super Fruit' providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition."

Interestingly, one doesn't have to gorge lots of chocolate every day to get the health benefits. A little treat, like a square or two daily will support good health.

A study of almost 20,000 participants in Germany concluded that those who ate 7.5 grams of dark chocolate a day received most of the heart protection benefits of chocolate. Organic dark chocolate bars are usually 100 grams.

Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Cardiac and stroke protection : Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure, which lowers risks of heart attacks and strokes.

Reduces risk of colon cancer : Cocoa polyphenols from dark chocolate reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. This was determined in a study by the Science and Technology Institute of Food and Nutrition in Spain, which was published in the journal Molecular Nutrition.

Healthy fats :The fat in chocolate does little to raise cholesterol. It contains abundant oleic acid, the type of fatty acid found in olive oil, which helps prevent heart disease and promote antioxidant activity.

Enhances glucose metabolism : Dark chocolate (70% plus) candy bars inhibit blood sugar issues to help prevent diabetes and obesity. How's that for a surprise!

Improves mood : Studies have shown that dark chocolate contains serotonin and increases endorphin production. It's a natural anti-depressant.

Improves brain function : Nottingham University professor Ian MacDonald used MRI analysis to determine improved brain activity with people who had just consumed cocoa drinks. 

Eases PMS issues : Here's a hint for husbands and boyfriends to give dark chocolate to your wives and lady friends.

There you have it
: many reasons to enjoy organic dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. There are brands with 80% to 90% as well. These aren't your kiddy chocolates with lots of sugar or milk or creamy nugget fillings, etc. They are semi-sweet at best.

The more bitter the better. It's not difficult to get used to if you really like chocolate. Enjoy chocolate with the knowledge that it's actually good for you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

10 Supplements for a Good Night's Rest

When you’re caught up in the daily whirlwind called life, it can be hard to fully unwind at day’s end, which in turn makes a good night’s sleep elusive. By some estimates, 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems, and it’s no wonder. We all can name countless stress culprits: work-related pressures, relationship issues, and simply not being able to keep up with the to-do list. So you toss and turn at night, wake up tired, and then fuel your systems with caffeine, which not only puts you on edge but further interferes with getting solid shut-eye.

What’s a modern-day worker bee to do? It’s essential to learn to mindfully manage stress and create evening rituals that help you unwind, but a number of supplements can also help dial down body and brain after a hectic day.

Buffer stress. For decades, B-complex vitamins have been recognized as stress busters, in part because they provide some of the building blocks for calm-inspiring neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. Large amounts of vitamin B6 in the afternoon or evening can cause vivid, sleep-disrupting dreams, so take in the morning. In addition, omega-3 fish oils lessen anxiety, and a new study found that they can ease feelings of stress, as well.

Dose: High-potency B-complex containing 25–50 mg each of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, once daily; plus 1–2 grams omega-3s daily.

Calm down.
Simply sipping a warm cup of any decaffeinated tea can relax you, but make it a cup of chamomile tea and the benefits grow. Prefer a concentrated approach? Two recent studies found that chamomile extracts reduced anxiety along with depression. (Don’t take chamomile if you have ragweed allergies.) If you need something stronger, try L-theanine, a green tea extract that boosts the activity of brain waves linked to calmer feelings and relaxation. Another option is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid and calming neurotransmitter that helps the brain filter out distractions.  Some formulas combine both L-theanine and GABA; they’re safe to take together.

Dose: Follow label directions for chamomile supplements. For L-theanine, try 50–100 mg up to three times daily. For GABA, take 500 mg one to three times daily, at least one hour apart from food.

Drift off to sleep. Melatonin, the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm, normally increases in the evening and decreases by morning. It’s a safe sleep aid, but the effective dose varies from person to person. L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), two forms of the same nutrient, are precursors to both serotonin and melatonin. The herb valerian works well when combined with hops to help you sleep—both are mild sedatives.  Don’t take all of these supplements together. If you feel sluggish the next morning, you’ve probably taken too high a dose.

Dose: Take melatonin about an hour before bedtime, and start at a low dose, such as 250–500 mcg. Most people don’t need more than 3 mg (3,000 mcg) nightly, but a few might need 5–10 mg. For L-tryptophan, take 500–1,000 mg before bed; for 5-HTP, try 50–100 mg before bed. For valerian and hops, follow label directions for use.

Supplements to try:

Jarrow Formulas L-Tryptophan provides 500 mg of this amino acid; take on an empty stomach 30 minutes before bed.

Nature’s Way Chamomile Flowers capsules contain 350 mg of dried chamomile buds. NutriCology ZenMind recommends two capsules daily between meals, which provide 550 mg GABA and 200 mg L-theanine per dose.

Solgar 10 mg Liquid Melatonin
comes with an eyedropper so you can easily take 5–10 mg (or less) before bed.

Top 10 Ways to Prepare Kale

It’s no secret that kale is one of nature’s super foods, and getting it into your diet is worth the effort.

10 Ways to Prepare Kale

Kale Chips – This simple preparation of kale will have you begging for more. A crispy salty treat that is better than popcorn or potato chips.

Kale Pesto – More flavorful than basil pesto, this is a great addition to pizza, pasta, or in an omelet.

Sauteed Kale – For a hearty side dish, this is a classic preparation. I saute onions and garlic before I add the kale, and add a couple dashes of hot sauce for an added kick.

Kale Quiche – You can substitute any spinach quiche with kale and it offers the same great taste with the added health benefits.

Kale Soup – A classic kale soup is made with white beans and ham or sausage, however I like this recipe of using acorn squash and kale to create a sweet and savory winter favorite.

Kale Lasagna – The perfect “make ahead” recipe for a hearty dinner is a dish the whole family can enjoy.

Kale Juice – If you own a juicer, kale is quite possibly the healthiest thing to juice. Mix it with apples, carrot and a little lemon for a drink that is better for you than liquid gold.

Kale Slaw – You can substitute raw kale for raw cabbage in this recipe.

Kale Pasta – One of my favorite ingredients to add to pasta. Goes with just about anything from spaghetti to sausage pasta to baked macaroni and cheese.

Kale Pizza – One of the joys I’ve found with eating seasonally is changing up my grilled pizza toppings. One of my favorite combinations is sauteed kale, caramelized onions, strong white cheeses, and some crispy bacon.

Overall, kale is a delicious and hearty green. Treat it like spinach and you can substitute it in just about any recipe. Experiment and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

22 DIY Alternatives To A Christmas Tree


Decorating Christmas tree with our family is probably among the best childhood memories we have. However, not everyone likes the idea of cutting down the trees, so people came up with an idea to replace them with artificial ones. And now, as the boundaries of imagination are only expanding, the most recent trend is the DIY Christmas trees!

For the spaces, that couldn’t fit an actual Christmas tree, or for the people, who want to make the holidays even more special, a DIY Christmas tree is a great project. That way, you can pick the size, the color, the style and the texture completely on your own, and make the Christmas tree look like a beautiful accessory, complementing the interior. What is more, that way it will definitely be one of a kind! To give you some ideas, we have made a selection of some DIY X-mas trees that we liked a lot. What will yours look like this year? Click the images to find the how-tos!




















Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bee's Wrap: Eco Alternative to Plastic Wrap

We are often asked for alternatives to using plastic, especially when it comes to food storage. So, we were thrilled to find a wonderful and viable alternative with Bee's Wrap!

Sarah, the owner of Bee's Wrap lives in Vermont with her family and grows her own food in addition to raising sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and three kids! With growing concerns about the environment and the health safety of plastic,  she looked for alternatives to using plastic in her kitchen. Through this goal and the lack of options (plus her own creative thinking) Bee's Wrap was realized.

Made from organic cotton muslin, beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin - the combination of ingredients and the infused fabric create a malleable food wrap that can be used again and again. The simple warmth of your hands (+ a little forming) naturally creates a seal and as the beeswax cools, the material stiffens and holds the seal intact.

Bee's wrap is recommended for cheese, vegetables, baked goods, bread, etc. but it's not recommended for wrapping meats.

This all sounds really wonderful but how do you care for Bee's wrap?

It's simple. Wash the wrap in cool water with a mild dish soap and allow to air dry before folding into squares and storing in a drawer (like you would with your kitchen towels) or if you prefer, roll and store vertically in a container of choice. One thing that you want to keep in mind is to avoid subjecting to heat!

Another natural perk: beeswax and jojoba oil have antibacterial qualities that help to keep food fresh and keep the wrap functional again and again.

Bee's Wrap is conveniently packaged in sets of 3 which includes one of each: small (7"x8"), medium (10"x11") and large (13"x14") wraps.

What are you looking to wrap without the use of plastic wrap?
[via Mighty Nest]

Monday, December 16, 2013

5 Soy-Free Vegan Meat Alternatives

Replacing meat in your diet can be a matter of several factors–be it for health, ethical or simply taste reasons.  Whatever the reason, there are many vegan options to choose from–now more than ever– and each one is versatile enough to keep your meat cravings at bay and creativity high in the kitchen. And if you’re also avoidng soy (whether you’re allergic, concerned about GMOs or have other reasons to replace it), there are also plenty of options. Here are five soy-free ways to fill in the meat gap and be able to enjoy a long, thriving life without animal flesh.

1. Avocado

It’s hard not to appreciate the value of avocado in a plant-based diet. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a salad, makes for a filling snack, and nurtures the transition from heavier, drier foods to lighter, water-based ones. The best way to enjoy avocados is in a mixed salad, as a topping for a veggie burger, as the main ingredient in a guacamole dip, or as simply as possible, with a bit of sea salt and a spoon for scooping as a snack.

Avocados are also a powerhouse of nutrition. Their mono-saturated fats are healthy and will not clog your arteries. They are a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C,K, folate and B6. They contain oleic acid, which has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast cancer, lower cholesterol levels, as well as activate the part of your brain that makes your feel full. Avocados also contribute to eye health, lower the incidence of heart disease, protect against strokes, help the body to better absorb nutrients from other foods, and slows aging. 

2. Legumes

Legumes include beans, peas and lentils. If you resort to meat for its protein and can’t imagine where in the plant food world you can get a viable source, look no further than legumes. On average, they offer between 4 and 9 grams per half-cup servng. They provide a good amount of folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium to top it off.

3. Grains

A serving of grains as either a side dish, mixed into a salad, or used more creatively in a veggie burger provides not only a delightful texture but also a great source of B-vitamins, proteins, and carbohydrates. Reach for whole, unrefined grains for a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio as well as a richer quality of fiber. Wheat germ, oat bran, quinoa, amaranth, and kamut are the crème de la crème of whole grains and will provide you with the most bang for you buck.

4. Eggplant

For casserole dishes or those involving some sort of ground beef, I often resort to eggplant. The vegetable is packed with fiber, antioxidants, B-vitamins, and potassium. Eggplants also have a meaty texture when cooked and readily absorb any flavor you add to them, which means they take on a meaty profile quite easily. Use eggplants for meatless lasagnas and pastas as well as a healthier alternative to chicken parmesan.

5. Portobello Mushrooms

If you love a meaty texture and smoky taste turn to portobello mushroom “steaks”. Portobellos are thick and juicy and have a texture that holds together firm and tender. All it takes is some seasoning and a grill, and you’ll be just as satisfied with a mushroom as with an actual steak. The advantage with portobello mushrooms is that they are low in calories, cholesterol and fat — something that can’t be said for steak.

Beyond Guacamole: 5 Ways to Use an Awesome Avocado

Forget the apple; an avocado a day will really keep the doctor away. Nutritionally speaking, avocados are rife with monounsaturated fat – the kind of fat that helps lower LDL (bad) and helps increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Prevention Magazine’s Flat Belly Diet names the avocado as one of the five all-star fats you should incorporate into your diet (yes, for a flat stomach!), providing nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also help the body absorb nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten in tandem. So, yes, go for the guac, but perhaps it’s time to put the avocado on the pedestal it deserves and incorporate into your daily life in a myriad of ways (as I wouldn’t eat guac every day…). Here are five ways to use an awesome avocado.
  • Avo Butter: Use avocado exactly as you would normally use butter, smearing it over a baked potato, a piece of whole grain toast, steamed veggies, or a piece of freshly shucked corn (try your corn raw, and you will never go back!).
  • Avo Cream: mash up and rub in, the natural oils will work their wonders.
  • Eco Avo: the avocado can take a lot of credit for helping many a carnivore transition to a vegetarian, vegan or even raw diet. It is so satisfying and healthful, its avid eaters hardly can miss meat and dairy. Also, avocados yield more food than any other tree crop. The Little Avocado Book says, “Imagine the ecological implications – a perfectly healthful “meaty” food which requires 1/200th or less of the acreage needed by the cattle industry for a comparable yield in pounds, posing no pollution problems – and no carnage!”
  • Avo the Aphrodisiac: The original named bestowed by the Aztecs of this deliciously fatty fruit was ahuacacuahatl meaning testicle tree, both for its appearance and ability to arouse sexuality.
  • Avo Conditioner: Puree an avocado with a tablespoon of lemon juice and pure aloe, adding a teaspoon of sea salt, and comb through your hair. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes while it soaks into every follicle bringing life back into your lustrous locks.
So, guacamole is great, there’s no doubting that. But consider the avocado a wealth or goodness, with a world of possibilities. Start out with Alice Water’s Green Goddess Dressing; it will mark your most memorable salad, and get the avocado wheels rolling. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Organic Milk Really is Better for you than Regular Milk

Whole milk from organic dairies contains far more of some of the fatty acids that contribute to a healthy heart than conventional milk, scientists are reporting. 

The finding, published Monday in the journal PLOS One, is the most clear-cut instance of an organic food’s offering a nutritional advantage over its conventional counterpart. Studies looking at organic fruits and vegetables have been less conclusive.

Drinking whole organic milk “will certainly lessen the risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said the study’s lead author, Charles M. Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“All milk is healthy and good for people,” he continued, “but organic milk is better, because it has a more favorable balance of these fatty acids” — omega-3, typically found in fish and flaxseed, versus omega-6, which is abundant in many fried foods like potato chips.

Under government requirements for organic labeling, dairy cows must spend a certain amount of the time in the pasture, eating grassy plants high in omega-3s; conventional milk comes from cows that are mostly fed corn, which is high in omega-6s. Nonorganic cows that graze in pastures also produce milk with greater amounts of omega-3s.

The research was largely funded by Organic Valley, a farm cooperative that sells organic dairy products. But experts not connected with the study said the findings were credible — though they noted that the role of milk in a healthy diet and the influence of fatty acids in preventing or causing cardiovascular disease are far from settled.

“I think this is a very good piece of work,” said Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, a nutritional neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers looked at 384 samples of organic and conventional whole milk taken over 18 months around the country. Although the total amount of fat was almost the same, the organic milk contained 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids and 25 percent fewer omega-6s.

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the organic milk was 2.28, much lower than the 5.77 ratio in conventional milk. (The figures do not apply to nonfat milk, which strips away the fatty acids.)

Nutrition experts broadly agree that omega-3 acids offer numerous health benefits. That was the impetus for the United States Department of Agriculture to urge people to eat more seafood when it revised its dietary guidelines in 2010.

But experts disagree sharply whether omega-6 consumption should be reduced.

In ancient times, people ate roughly equal amounts of the two fatty acids. Today most Americans now eat more than 10 times as much omega-6, which is prevalent in certain vegetable oils and thus also fried foods, as omega-3.

While omega-6 is essential, some health studies suggest that such a wide disparity is associated with many ills, Dr. Benbrook said. A shift to drinking organic whole milk — and raising consumption from the currently recommended three servings a day to 4.5 — would take a big step to lowering the ratio, he said, although adjustments would have to be made elsewhere in the diet to offset the added calories of the milk fat.

Donald R. Davis, another of the study’s authors, said the longstanding assumption that the saturated fats in whole milk raise the risk of cardiovascular disease has been questioned in recent years.

Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, did not question the underlying data in the study. But he said the conclusions and recommendations were based on the “false assumption” that omega-6 fatty acids are harmful.

Dr. Willett said omega-6s were actually associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and he called the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s “irrelevant.” People should try to eat more of both, he said.

And he noted that milk was not essential to a healthy diet; adults in many countries drink little or none. “We don’t know all the long-term consequences, so I think the best strategy given current knowledge is to keep intake low to moderate (as in the Mediterranean diet) if it is consumed at all,” Dr. Willet wrote in an email.

But Dr. Hibbeln of the National Institutes of Health, who has conducted research on the effects of fatty acids on heart disease, said animal studies showed that high levels of omega-6s interfered with omega-3s.

At the same time, though, he cautioned that the mix of omega-3s in milk is different from that in fatty fish. The simple ratio, he said, “is not as meaningful as we would like it to be.”

Still, he endorsed the organic milk recommendation. “You’re heading in the right direction,” he said.

Organic Valley uses independent milk-processing companies around the country, allowing the researchers to compare samples of organic milk with conventional milk from the same region.

The company provided $45,000 for an independent laboratory to measure the fatty acids, and it is a corporate sponsor of Dr. Benbrook’s program at Washington State. The university spent $90,000 to analyze the data and prepare the paper for publication.

George Siemon, chief executive of Organic Valley, said he was hoping to gain a better idea of how organic foods differ from conventionally produced ones.

“Organics have lacked a science base,” Mr. Siemon said. “I just wanted to know.”

Do Juice Cleanses Work? 10 Truths About The Fad

The juice cleanse business is drawing in customers like fruit flies, promising weight loss, body detoxification and the treatment and prevention of everything from the common cold to cancer.

A nutritious juice here and there can be beneficial for your health, but when it’s taken to the extreme -- limiting your diet to strictly juices for weeks -- it not only fails to be the magic solution the fanatics are claiming it to be; it can also do more harm than good.


During a juice fast or cleanse, a person limits their diet to only fresh vegetable and fruit juices and water for anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The fast focuses on freshly made, unpasteurized juice, so the usual bottles of OJ that you would pick up at the corner store wouldn’t be allowed.

People generally either buy the juices from a manufacturer of juice cleanse products or purchase a juicer and make their own concoctions at home. According to the New York Times, the new cleanses contain about 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day and often include a nut-milk component to provide a small amount of fat and protein.

Pathogens can live on all raw food, but packaged juices go through a pasteurization process that kills them. If you do make your own juices at home, make sure to only make enough for one serving so you don’t give dangerous organisms a chance to develop. And, as always, scrub that produce clean!


1. It’s an easy way to add servings of vegetables and fruits to your diet.
The latest dietary guidelines recommend five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (2.5 to 6.5 cups per day), depending on a person’s caloric intake. The average American requires 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, so the average person’s goal is nine servings, or 4.5 cups, of fruits and veggies per day. (By the way, potatoes don’t count.)

Don’t eat that much produce? Neither does anyone else. That’s one reason fans of the juice cleanse say the diet is so healthy: You can fit a lot of fruit and veggie servings into one big glass of juice.

2. We get more health benefits from fruits and veggies in juice form.
You’ll find the following sentence, or something very similar, on almost every juice cleanse website: “Although eating fruits and vegetables in their natural state does provide us with a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals, we only obtain the maximum benefits from them when they are juiced.” Proponents of the cleanses will even tell you that drinking juice “gives the digestive system a break” from breaking down fiber. In reality, fiber helps with digestion.

3. Overweight? We guarantee you’ll lose weight!
Cleanse fanatics claim the diet is great for weight loss.

4. Everything else you want a magic pill for.
Juice cleanse websites tout the diet’s ability to make you feel more energized, boost your immune system, strengthen your bones, make your skin glow and reduce your risk of illness and disease.

10 Truths About Juice Cleanses

1. It’s dangerous for some people.
People undergoing chemotherapy, diabetics, people with nutritional deficiencies and people with kidney disease should not try a juice fast. The high sugar consumption involved in juice fasts can skyrocket blood-sugar levels in diabetics, which can result in fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurry vision, excessive hunger and thirst, and wounds or infections that heal more slowly than usual.

According to USA Today, the high levels of potassium and minerals from excessive juice consumption can build up in the blood to hazardous levels in those with kidney disease. And the high levels of antioxidants and low levels of protein can be dangerous for those undergoing chemo.

2. Juicing is not better than whole fruits and vegetables. In fact, it removes some nutrients.
While the juice form does hydrate and supply nutrients, registered dietitian Jennifer Nelson says there’s no reliable scientific research to support claims that juicing your produce is healthier than eating it whole. Actually, the fiber and some of the antioxidants found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables are often eliminated in the juicing process. For example, the white pulp in an orange provides flavonoids, but that’s usually left behind.

Because juice doesn’t offer the fiber contained in fruits and veggies, the body absorbs fructose sugar more easily, which can affect blood-sugar levels, according to Food Republic. If you do decide to try a juice cleanse, drink more veggie juices (carrots and beets not included) and limit fruit juice to one glass a day in order to avoid this potential side effect.

None of this means you shouldn’t drink juice. It simply means, instead of drinking only juice for weeks, a healthier route might just be including juices in a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.

3. Juices are less filling than whole fruits and vegetables.
You’re not going to feel as satisfied and full if you drink your meals instead of chewing them, Livestrong.com explains. Additionally, the fiber that’s been left out of the juice would have helped slow consumption and make you feel more sated.

4. Juice fasts can leave out critical nutrients your body needs to function properly.
You should always be skeptical when a diet requires extreme restrictions and cuts out entire food groups. There’s a reason dietary guidelines include various categories of food: You can’t get all of your essential vitamins and minerals out of just one.

Livestrong.com explains that juice fasts frequently lack substantial amounts of protein and fat. “Few fruits contain significant amounts of fat and protein, and vegetables that contain these macronutrients — such as avocados, beans and lentils — do not lend themselves to juicing,” Livestrong says. “Without sufficient protein, your body has no raw materials with which to build new tissue. A lack of fat leaves your skin and hair in poor shape and contributes to malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins.”

Extend your juice fast, and you might just cause serious damage. Dr. Glenn D. Braunstein, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, says that longer fasts could result in electrolyte imbalances. Additionally, if you’re not getting enough calories, your body could start using muscle tissue instead of fat for energy.

5. Like most fad diets, a juice fast is not an effective way to lose weight and keep it off.
Will you lose weight? Probably — you’re cutting out all of the fat from your diet and drastically lowering your caloric intake. But you’ll most likely put it right back on after the fast.

There’s nothing wrong with going on a juice fast for a few days,” said Dr. James Dillard, assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, on WebMD. “But it’s not a great way to lose weight, because you’ll gain it all back — you yo-yo. It’s just like the Atkins diet. The weight you lose is water weight.” And Dr. Braunstein (of Cedars-Sinai) says this type of deprivation can also result in dizziness, nausea, constipation, fatigue and irritability.

Additionally, if you do this to your body enough, you could permanently lower your metabolism — as if it’s not tough enough to lose weight as it is. New York Times writer Judith Newman tried a juice cleanse and wrote about her experience: “This kind of cleansing puts a lot of stress on your body,” she wrote. “Your body wants and expects food. And as with most crash diets, which is really what this is, your body thinks it’s starving. It doesn’t know it’s going to get more food. So it lowers your metabolism, and if you do this enough, it can lower your metabolism permanently.”

6. There isn’t really anything to detox.
Don’t get me wrong: A “detox diet” to rid my body of all the crap I’ve recently put in it sounds convincing, even to me. Who wouldn’t want to “cleanse” their body of all the chemicals, fat and alcohol they’ve consumed? The fact is, though, our body does an excellent job of this already; our liver, kidneys and intestines filter the unwanted things we ingest and expel them through urine, bowel movements, breath and sweat. We don’t need to punish ourselves with strict juice-only diets to eliminate the bad stuff.

People were talking about detoxification back in the early 1900s, according to QuackWatch. Supporters of the process claimed that “intestinal sluggishness causes intestinal contents to putrefy, toxins are absorbed and chronic poisoning of the body results.” Scientists abandoned this theory, though, in the 1930s, and these mysterious “toxins” that everyone keeps trying to get rid of have never been discovered.

“Our bodies are very good at eliminating all the nasties that we might ingest over the festive season,” said Dr. John Emsley, a chemical scientist quoted in the Washington Times in a story about the potential of detox diets to get rid of all the junk we put in our bodies over the holidays. The idea of detoxing our bodies by “drinking fancy bottled water or sipping herbal teas is just nonsense.”

7. It’s not cheap.
The weight loss industry is a business -- a booming one at that. As of February 2011, the weight loss market was valued at almost $60 billion, including bariatric surgery, diet soft drinks, health club revenues and more by Marketdata Enterprises. BluePrintCleanse, a popular New York-based manufacturer, will charge you $65 a day for its cleansing package of juices. Los Angeles-based Pressed Juicery offers three different cleanse packages, each providing five juices and one almond milk for a total cost of $70 a day.

Want to juice at home? Get ready to put down some money. Juicers range from $30 to $300. And since you shouldn’t be saving unpasteurized juice for later, you might want to buy one for the office while you’re at it.

8. “But my friend did it and said she felt amazing!”
It’s true. Many people who try these detox diets report having more energy and feeling more focused. However, as Mayo Clinic explains, this could be due to the belief that they’re doing something good for their bodies.

That said, you could also argue that there’s nothing wrong with a placebo effect if it does the job. As the NYT writer who tried one of these cleanses wrote, “What’s so bad about feeling a little better, even if there’s no demonstrable proof that you actually are better?”

9. It’s not going to cure cancer.
Proponents of the juice fast claim it will cure your case of the sniffles and even treat cancer. There has been no scientific evidence suggesting it will do anything but help increase your vitamin intake -- which, yes, could benefit your health, but the calorie restriction and lack of protein might actually slow healing. Your body needs all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it can get to heal. The best thing you can do with your diet is to make sure you’re not depriving it of an essential nutrient and eat balanced, well-portioned meals.

As for cancer, the American Cancer Society states that current scientific research does not support fasting (including juice fasting) to treat it. Additionally, as previously stated, those undergoing chemotherapy should not attempt a juice fast because of the risk posed by the high levels of antioxidants and low levels of protein.


Look, there are some benefits to juice cleanses. If you follow it all the way through, you’ll probably feel a sense of accomplishment. You might feel like you’ve freed yourself from the control cravings had over you. Some people say it helps them break their unhealthy eating habits. And yes, for once, you’re probably getting the recommended servings of fruits and veggies, if not more, per day. But if you’re going to try a juice cleanse, make it short. It’s not healthy to restrict your body for weeks from the other nutritious foods it needs.

If you were considering doing a juice fast to lose weight, this isn’t the way to go. Moderation is key to any diet, and the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to make healthy lifestyle changes that you’ll be able to maintain throughout your life. USA Today does suggest, however, that replacing one meal with a juice in order to aid weight loss could benefit people without health concerns, as long as it’s supported with a balanced diet.

Registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky said it best on Mayo Clinic’s website: “The best diet is a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Post-GMO Economy

One mainstream farmer is returning to conventional seed — and he’s not alone

As an invulnerable tween, Chris Huegerich, the child of a prosperous farming family, wiped out on his motorcycle in tiny Breda, Iowa. Forty years on, folks still call Huegerich “Crash.” And though he eventually went down a conventional path (married, divorced) and bought out his parents’ farm, Huegerich has recently reverted to his daredevil ways — at least when it comes to choosing what kind of corn to plant.

It’s late November, and Huegerich’s 2,800 acres in central Iowa have been neatly shorn to sepia-and-umber stubble. His enormous combines and cultivators have been precision parked — wheel nut to headlight — inside his equipment sheds. But in Huegerich’s office, between the fields and the sheds, chaos reigns. A dozen dog-eared seed catalogs litter a table, along with marked-up spreadsheets and soil maps. For farmers choosing next year’s crop, this is decision time.

Huegerich, in his combine. He has no ideological problem with GMOs but has been experimenting with conventional seeds for financial reasons

Buying seeds used to be a fairly simple matter. Farmers picked four or five varieties offered by a regional dealer, and that was that. But in the mid-1990s, biotech companies started producing seeds genetically modified with traits from other organisms. One trait made soybeans resistant to the herbicide glyphosate; another, using a protein from the soil bacterium Bt, helped corn fend off the insects rootworm and European corn borer.

Huegerich’s father eagerly embraced the new genetically modified (GMO) seeds. They cost more, but he could save money on herbicides and pesticides. His yields and profits went up, helped in part by good weather and favorable market conditions. But as revenue rose and the years passed, trouble was looming.

“Five years ago the traits worked,” says the strongly built Huegerich, who followed in his father’s footsteps and planted GMO seeds. “I didn’t have corn rootworm because of the Bt gene, and I used less pesticide. Now, the worms are adjusting, and the weeds are resistant. Mother Nature adapts.”

Staring at a future of lower corn prices and higher inputs, Huegerich decided to experiment. Two years ago, he planted 320 acres of conventional corn and 1,700 with GMO corn. To his delight, the conventional fields yielded 15 to 30 more bushels per acre than the GMO fields, with a profit margin of up to $100 more per acre. And so in 2013, he upped the ante, ordering six varieties of conventional seeds for close to 750 acres and GMOs for his remaining acres.

Attachments for a skid loader sit stacked near the silos at Huegerich’s home base. After harvest, Huegerich has a busy winter planning for next year’s crop.

Hugerich Isn’t the only farmer retreating from GMO seeds. In pockets across the nation, commodity growers are becoming fed up with traits that don’t work like they used to. Not only are the seeds expensive (GMO corn can cost $150 more per bag than conventional corn), they’re also driving farmers to buy and apply more chemicals. During the growing season, Huegerich sprays both his conventional and his GMO corn twice with herbicides and twice with pesticides, despite the GMO’s theoretical resistance to rootworm. “It gives me peace of mind,” Huegerich says. Between 2001 and 2010, the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch reports, total on-farm herbicide use increased 26 percent as weed resistance grew. Today, 61.2 million acres of cropland, including many of Huegerich’s, are plagued by glyphosate-resistant weeds.

Just as plants and animals adapt to environmental pressures, retailers respond to consumer pressure. This past March, Whole Foods announced that by 2018 it would label all its foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. In June, Target announced it would debut a line of foods, called Simply Balanced, that would be free of genetically modified ingredients by the end of 2014. And by late summer, more than 20 states were considering genetic modification label laws.

While consumer demand will ultimately propel more non-GMO grain into the market, more proximate factors can also influence what kinds of seeds farmers plant. For example, geography. Does the grower live close to the river systems that send the vast majority of the nation’s conventional grain to GMO-averse markets in Japan, South Korea and the EU? Wyatt Muse, a merchandiser for Clarkson Grain, which buys conventional and organic corn and soybeans, pays farmers a premium — up to $2 extra per bushel over the base commodity price of soybeans, $1 for corn — to not only grow the crop but also preserve its identity. (That is, keep it separate from genetically modified grain all the way from planting through harvest, storage and transportation.)

Huegerich doesn’t live near a dry mill that would pay him a premium for conventional corn, or a river that can move his product out into the world. But he does live within trucking distance of Blair, Nebraska, where a Cargill-owned plant converts his crop into plastic for customers who want a bio-based product but can’t get behind GMO corn. “I get a fifty-cent-per-bushel premium,” Huegerich says.

Aaron Bloom doesn’t farm near an outlet that pays a premium, but he still comes out ahead with conventional corn. A crop consultant, Bloom has been experimenting with non-GMO varieties for five years on land he works around Cherokee, Iowa. “We get the same or better yields, and we save money up front,” he says. And yet when he first suggests conventional seeds to clients, he sometimes gets pushback. “Guys think that you have to get out the cultivator” — which pierces the soil between rows of crops — “and kill your weeds by hand. No! You’re going out there with the planter anyway, just add your insecticide and your conventional herbicides.” Last year, not one of the roughly 30 farmers to whom Bloom sold non-GMO seeds had a bad harvest — despite unprecedented drought. “And I’ve got another 20 trying this year.”

Still, winning converts to conventional corn can be an uphill slog. Post-harvest, farmers face a barrage of TV and print ads touting the latest seed technology. There’s a subtler psychology at work, too. Farmers have close relationships with their seed dealers, who often live nearby and keep them company at local baseball games, PTA meetings or church. “You can’t break up with them,” Bloom says, noting that seed dealers work on commission. DuPont Pioneer, for example, offers him a non-GMO corn for $180 a bag, while Wyffels Hybrids sold the same for $115 a bag last year.

Why does Pioneer charge so much? Because it doesn’t want lower-priced conventional seed to lure customers away from GMOs. Bloom says a company dealer confessed: “We don’t want our farmers to buy it.”

From left: Rotary hoes neatly stacked in Huegerich’s shop; The corn combine shows some attitude.

Into this breach, smaller companies that specialize in non-GMO seed have leapt. West Des Moines–based eMerge Genetics has averaged 30 percent growth in each of the last five years. Sales at Spectrum Seed Solutions, based in Linden, Indiana, have doubled every year of the four it’s been in business. Its president, Scott Odle, believes that non-GMO corn could be 20 percent of the market in five years. After surveying 10 smaller companies focusing on conventional seed in the grain belt earlier this year, Ken Roseboro, editor of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, reported that each saw an increase in demand. “And I think it’s going to continue,” he says.

But are there more acres of conventional corn being planted, or are small seed companies simply filling a niche that larger companies have relinquished? It’s difficult to say. Jeffrey Neu, a Monsanto spokesperson, says, “While we offer some conventional hybrids, we continue to see the greatest demand for ‘traited’ products. We typically do not provide percentage or sales information.” Daniel Jones, a business manager at DuPont Pioneer, says sales of his company’s conventional seeds have “trended up,” but he declines to say by how much. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 88 percent of the corn planted in the nation in 2011 and 2012 was genetically modified; in 2013, the percentage rose to 90. Because the total acreage of corn is so huge — 97 million acres — it obscures the acreage planted by farmers like Huegerich and Bloom. “The growth is regional and local,” Wyatt Muse of Clarkson Grain says, “so it won’t show up in the national data.”

Aaron Bloom, a farmer and business consultant at Huegerich’s farm;

The big seed companies are carefully watching state legislatures, spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat proposed labeling laws and fielding calls from food companies concerned with how such laws could impact production agriculture. “If such laws create a demand at the farmer level, we’ll have to respond,” Pioneer’s Jones says, cautiously. “But we won’t lead the charge.” Chuck Hill, specialty products manager at AgriGold Hybrids, which sells both GMOs and hybrids, sounds a similarly wary note: “Whole Foods’ decision to label was not an earthshaker,” he insists. “The company was already serving that clientele. Now, if Walmart decided to label GM food, that would be a major chit.”

And yet this parallel seed economy is churning. The Non-GMO Project, which offers third-party verification and labeling for non-GMO products, has been inundated with requests from food purveyors for information about enrolling their products, and consumer spending on non-GMO-verified products rose from $1.3 billion to $3.1 billion between 2011 and 2013. Companies that make non-GMO feed for animals, says Caroline Kinsman, communications manager for the Non-GMO Project, are experiencing “incredible demand.”

From left: A sign in the town of Breda, Iowa; Non-GMO corn shows its stuff at one of Huegerich’s farms

Sales at Hiland Naturals, which makes conventional and organic feeds for livestock, have more than doubled since it received Non-GMO Project verification last year. Most of Hiland’s customers are small farmers who sell eggs or meat at farmers markets and natural grocery stores. But many sell birds to Whole Foods and to institutions like colleges. Some of Hiland’s growth, owner Dan Masters says, comes from people wanting to know what they’re eating, some is from pending labeling laws and some is from “people who are tired of big corporations and big agriculture.”

As farmers across the grain belt were contemplating what they’d plant next spring, Masters was in talks with one of the nation’s largest animal feed producers to formulate a non-GMO-verified product. Should the deal come to fruition, it would more than double his company’s size and trigger the opening of several more mills.

“We need to get more farmers on board with conventional seed now,” Aaron Bloom says, anticipating the market’s growth. “We need to be innovative and grow toward the demand of the consumer.”

The article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, non-profit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture and environmental health.