Tuesday, March 31, 2015

7 Egg Label Claims You Need to Know

For the first time in more than 50 years, eggs could be sold in a new healthy light and not with a cholesterol warning. This all depends if the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee files its springtime report with USDA and HHS (after the public comment period), and sticks to its decision to no longer caution against eating foods that contain cholesterol.

Either way, eggs are great any time of the day; for breakfast, lunch or dinner or even a quick snack, they provide a ton of nutrition for low cost, and they don’t take long to prepare. So what kinds of eggs should you choose? Here are some of the different ways eggs are marketed in the US:
  • Cage-free or free-roaming: Over 90 percent of hens are raised in cages that are between 48 and 68 square inches. Birds that are cage-free or free-roaming are not caged; however, they likely were still raised within the confines of a small building and generally do not have access to the outdoors. So this is a distinction without much of a difference.
  • Certified humane: For a farm to make this claim, it must meet specific criteria: The hens may not be caged; their feed must be vegetarian and contain no antibiotics; and the birds need to live in a natural environment that allows for behaviors like preening and scratching.
  • Fertile: These are eggs that, when incubated, will develop into chicks. They are no more nutritious than other eggs and are usually priced higher than others. Usually fertile eggs are cage free and come from hen houses where roosters roam as well; some consumers believe this is a more natural habitat.
  • Grass-fed/Pastured: There is no USDA-approved definition of this term when it comes to hens. Farms touting grass-fed egg laying hens claim their hens are as close to being “wild” as possible. Grass-fed hens are usually allowed to roam freely and so they eat a variety of things found in their natural habitat: grass, bugs, and whatever animals they might catch and kill. All of these (individually and together) contain adequate protein. (Including vegetation) Because this term is not USDA regulated, if you are interested in purchasing grass-fed eggs it may be best to get to know your farmer and their farming practices.
  • Hormone free: The use of hormones in poultry has been banned since the 1960s. So by law, all eggs are hormone-free. If a carton offers this claim alone, it’s a waste of money if it costs more.
  • Natural: This is another meaningless term. According to regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, no additives or colors can ever be added to eggs.
  • USDA-certified organic: This means that the hens have eaten only organic feed and grain grown without fungicides, herbicides, commercial fertilizers, and pesticides and that their diet hasn’t contained any animal or poultry by-products. The hens also have not been given any antibiotics or growth hormones, and they’ve been allowed access to the outdoor.
So what are the best eggs for your nutrition buck? Look for pastured eggs or those that have access to the outdoors (although this is no guarantee); also get to know your local farmers and find out how their chickens are raised – this is your best bet for the best nutrition and for supporting your local economy and community.

According to Mother Earth News, one (of many) study demonstrated that free-range or pasture-raised chicken eggs have four to six times more vitamin D (one of the only natural sources), three times more vitamin E, two-thirds more vitamin A, one third less cholesterol, and seven times more beta carotene. They also have two times more omega-3 essential fatty acids, and some would say a better taste. Buying eggs from a local farmer also ensures their freshness, you know they were produced only days before.

In any case, eggs are a great all day long and all year round!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

7 Natural and Healthy Foods To Boost Your Mood

We did a little research and compared recent studies in order to build the ultimate list of healthy foods, which can help in our constant fight against stress, anxiety and depression. Feel free to browse through the pages and see which healthy foods to eat in order to feel happier.

Dark Chocolate

It's no surprise that chocolate is first on our list, but it's good to know that there is a little science behind the theory that eating chocolate makes us happy. Consuming dark chocolate every day for two weeks (1.4 ounces of it) will reduce the stress hormones, cortisol included. According to the experts we have to thank the antioxidants in chocolate. Just stick to those 1.4 ounces or you may find yourself in a world of stress when you see some extra pounds in the mirror.


Many believe that carbs make you fat. Well they don't, in fact they can be a great mood buster. According to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who followed a very-low-carbohydrate diet – felt victims to depression, anger, bad mood and anxiety than those who followed a low-fat, high-carb diet, focused on low-fat dairy, whole grains, beans and fruits.

Carbs stimulate the production of serotonin – a feel-good brain chemical.

Fruits and Vegetables

In order to eat healthy we must turn our attention to foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible. We stumbled upon a recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, that evolved around 3.500 people eating a whole foods diet rich program. The results have show that they were less likely to feel depressed than those who ate fried foods, processed meats and other high fat refined dairy products.

Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables as well as omega -3 fatty acids are always associated with good mood. Folate (a Vitamin B) found in dark green vegetables like spinach or in beans and citrus affects the neurotransmitters that are in charge of our mood.


Omega 3 is a key mood-boosting nutrient found in oily, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and rainbow trout. They alter the brain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) which are directly linked with our mood. Dopamine is a rewarding chemical released by the brain as a reaction to pleasurable experiences, while the lack of serotonin is associated with aggression, depression and suicidal tendencies.


There are many evidences from earlier studies that support the claim that saffron helps decline mood swings and depression. In fact this plant has the same antidepressant effect as the antidepressants fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine (Tofranil). It works by the same principal as Prozac, transmitting more feel good serotonin to the brain.


Did you know that only the scent of coconut may blunt your natural response to “flight or fight” by slowing the heart rate? A small pilot research done by the Colombia University has shown that coconut fragrance recovers the blood pressure more quickly. Inhaling a pleasant scent may enhance awareness by relieving the reaction to stress.


According to The Journal of Nutrition, drinking green, caffeinated or oolong tea may evoke a more active state of mind. When we drink these types of tea – an amino acid called theanine is working synergistically with caffeine to improve awareness and focus. The same study suggest drinking at least 5 to 6 cups of tea daily.

Monday, March 2, 2015

10 Natural Tips To Beat Chronic Stress

"If you really knew what was happening to you when you are stressed, you would freak out. It's not pretty," I said during the 2013 Third Metric women's conference.

I wasn't exaggerating. Chronic stress has become epidemic in our society, where faster seems better and we pack more obligations into our ever-expanding schedules.

Research has confirmed the havoc stress can wreak, with one meta-analysis involving 300 studies finding that chronic stress could damage immunity. Another study found stressed-out women had significantly higher waist circumference compared to non-stressed women.

Experts have connected stress with blood sugar and belly fat. Chronic stress raises insulin, driving relentless metabolic dysfunction that becomes weight gain, insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes.

Insulin isn't the only hormone that becomes out of balance with stress. Your adrenal glands release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that flood your system, raising your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, making your blood more likely to clot, damaging your brain's memory center, increasing belly fat storage, and generally doing damage to your body.

Want to reduce stress? Start with your diet.

The right diet can do wonders to reduce stress's impact. When you eat whole, real foods, you restore balance to insulin, cortisol, and other hormones.

Eliminating mind-robbing molecules like caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars and eating regularly can help you avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body. You maintain an even-keeled mindset throughout the day, even when things get hectic.

You'll replace those foods with clean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, berries and non-gluten grains. Food is information that controls your gene expression, hormones and metabolism. When you eat the right foods, you balance blood sugar, restore hormonal balance and reduce stress's damaging impact.

Reconsidering Stress

Stress is a thought, a perception of a threat, even if it isn't real. That's it. No more, no less. If that's true, then we have complete control over stress, because it's not something that happens to us but something that happens in us.

Here's where it become interesting. Stressors can be real or perceived. You might imagine your spouse is angry with you. Whether or not they are, you raise stress levels. Real or imagined, when you perceive something as stressful, it creates the same response in the body.

Fortunately, a wide variety of techniques and tools can help effectively manage stress. Among them, these 10 are most beneficial:

1. Address the underlying biological causes of stress.

Find the biological causes of problems with the mind including mercury toxicity, magnesium and vitamin B12 deficiencies, and gluten allergies. Changing your body can change your mind.

2. Begin actively relaxing.

Humans remain primed to always do something. Even when we're not working, our mind is on work. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must do something relaxing. You can't just sit there watching television or drinking beer. Whether that means deep breathing or a simple leisurely walk, find active relaxation that works for you and do it.

3. Learn new skills.

Try learning new skills such as yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation or take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.

4. Make movement your drug.

Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind. Studies show exercise works better than or equal to pharmaceutical drugs for treating depression. Try interval training if you're short on time but want a powerful, intense workout.

5. Supplement.

Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response, such as vitamin C; the B-complex vitamins, including B6 and B5 or pantothenic acid; zinc; and most important, magnesium, the relaxation mineral.

6. Reframe your point of view.

Challenge your beliefs, attitudes, and responses to common situations and reframe your point of view to reduce stress.

7. Find a community.

Consciously build your network of friends, family and community. They're your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.

8. Take care of your vagus nerve by using deep breaths.

Most of us hold our breath often or breathe swallow, anxious breaths. Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound affect on resetting the stress response, because the relaxation nerve (or vagus nerve) goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath. Take five deep breaths now. See how differently you feel?

9. Meditate.

No matter how much or little time you have to commit, find a practice that works for you.

10. Sleep.

Lack of sleep increases stress hormones. Get your eight hours no matter what. Take a nap if you missed sleep. Prioritize it, and if you feel like you're not getting high-quality shut-eye, find strategies to improve it.

Fake Olive Oil: What You Need To Know

You’d have to live in a cave to not have heard about the health benefits of olive oil. It’s a monounsaturated fat that is a major component of the Mediterranean diet and is believed to be a factor why people in that area of the world are some of the healthiest and long-lived.

Olive oil has been used medicinally for over 5,000 years. Its health benefits are legendary. It has been found to boost the immune system, increase bone density, prevent cancer, strokes, and heart disease, lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk of diabetes.

And if that isn’t enough, it seems that olive oil can improve memory and increase overall cognitive function. A large study on 6,000 women over the age of 65 found that women who consumed the highest amount of monounsaturated fats, which can be found in olive oil, had better patterns of cognitive scores over time.1

But now it looks like the olive oil you trusted to provide you with health benefits might be a fake! Is nothing sacred anymore?

My first thoughts were how do you make fake olive oil? Who is doing this? Why are they doing it?

Olive Oil Is Big Business

Working backwards, it’s pretty easy to guess the “why”. There is money to be made in olive oil forgery.

The US alone spends 1.5 billion dollars a year on olive oil. It might not seem worth the effort to make fake oil, but in one Italian bust alone, authorities broke up a criminal gang sitting on $8 million worth of fake oil.

The “who” might be surprising. Throughout Europe there are large scale facilities that pump this stuff out.

According to the book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, illicit manufacturers slap an Italian flag and the name of an imaginary producer on the label and dump this stuff on the US market, where consumers are easy pickings.

But consumers in the US aren’t the only victims. Studies done in Australia and New Zealand found that half of their Mediterranean imports were fake, too. Anywhere olive oil is in demand is a possible target.

How do you fake olive oil? Olive oil can be diluted with poor quality oils or sometimes there is no real olive oil at all. Cheap and unhealthy soy or canola oils are colored with industrial chlorophyll and flavored with artificial flavorings. Yum.

Extra Virgin Oil Frauds

The term “virgin” when applied to olive oil doesn’t mean quality. There are four levels of virgin olive oil. The lowest grade of virgin olive oil is not fit for human consumption and designated for “other” uses, like making soap.

The top of the line olive oil is extra virgin. This means it’s cold-pressed so the temperature during processing hasn’t exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit.2 It’s also supposed to meet high standards of acidity and taste.

Independent tests at the University of California found that 69% of all store-bought extra virgin olive oils in the US are probably fake.3 This study reported that the following brands failed to meet extra virgin olive oil standards:
  • Bertolli
  • Carapelli
  • Colavita
  • Filippo Berio
  • Mazzola
  • Mezzetta
  • Newman’s Own
  • Safeway
  • Star
  • Whole Foods
Seeing brands that pride themselves on being healthy and natural like Newman’s Own and Whole Foods is very disappointing. However, it’s very likely that the fault goes back to the supplier.

Apparently, the olive oil mafia has become so adept at their forgeries that even many olive oil “experts” can’t tell real from fake based on taste alone. But in my book, that is still no excuse. Companies are responsible for doing their own due diligence!

Finding the Real Thing...

You naturally want to get what you pay for. If you are paying more for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and you care about your health, you don’t want to be buying diluted, adulterated junk.

Not only will fake oil lack health benefits, it could actually do you harm. Six hundred people died and 25,000 more were hospitalized by bad oil in Spain.4 While that was highly unusual, I think you get the point.

A test you can try on any olive oil you currently have is to stick it in the fridge and see if it solidifies. If it doesn’t, you definitely don’t have olive oil. If it does this means you may have olive oil. Turning solid will tell you that you have a mostly a monounsaturated oil, but it won’t rule out whether it’s sunflower, safflower, or canola oils have been added. It won’t reveal if your olive oil has been tainted with chemicals, flavorings, or colorings either.

The same University of California study listed the following brands as having met their standards for being true extra virgin olive oil.
  • Corto Olive
  • California Olive Ranch
  • Kirkland Organic
  • Lucero (Ascolano)
  • McEvoy Ranch Organic
  • Pompeian
In their September 2012 issue, Consumer Reports published results of their taste test of 138 bottles of extra virgin olive oil from 23 manufacturers. The olive oil was sourced from a variety of countries including the US, Argentina, Greece, Chile, and Italy.

Their general finding was that those produced in California surpassed those from Italy. The two highest scoring olive oils, McEvoy Ranch and Trader Joe’s California Estate, were both from California.5

It’s a sad testament to the quality of our food supply when a natural product with a 5,000 year history has been tainted for profit. We can all do our part to stamp out food fraud by voting with our wallets. By buying locally and supporting boutique producers we can send the message that we care about the quality of our food and help to make food fraud less profitable

Editor’s Note: Eat Local Grown recently contacted by the maker’s of Pompeian Olive Oil who informed us that their brand “ is not only the first branded olive oils to carry the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) seal, but since 2012, Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the first extra virgin olive oil to attain the USDA Quality Monitored Seal.” Please consider this when making purchase decisions.