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Is Milk Organic?

Organic Milk is a huge business in the US. Many families forgo organic produce, but insist that the milk their children drink be organic. Horizon is one of the biggest brands, selling billions worth of organic milk every year. A premium offering by Horizon is its DHA Omega-3 milk. One of its advantages is that it has high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to boost brain health.

However, the omega-3 here is not the result of organic practices or better nutrition of the grass-fed cows. It is a processed ingredient – DHA algal oil – added to Horizon’s milk. The oil is industrially produced from algae that is grown in gargantuan vats, feeding on corn syrup. Which begs the question – is the end product organic – yes or no?

From a purely technical perspective, the term organic can be used only if a product adheres to a long list of requirements set by the USDA. Industrial additives are not allowed in organic products. When algal oil was initially added to Horizon milk, an oversight on behalf of the USDA allowed the company to continue boating the product as organic.

However, it now quite clear that this is a violation of the spirit of organic food. On the other hand, there is nothing inherently unhealthy or unethical in growing algae in a big factory.

What do you think?

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Probiotic Supplements – Not What You Think

Anyone with a smidgen of interest in healthy eating and / or weight loss has heard of probiotics. As a refresher, they are friendly microorganisms inhabiting the digestive tract. Most probiotics are bacteria. Other types of probiotics include yeast. Probiotics aid digestion and may confer additional health benefits.

Probiotics in your gut number in the trillions, and each person has a specific probiotic “fingerprint”. Your probiotic population is nourished by the foods that you eat. Any food that is cultured or fermented has probiotics:

1. yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk
2. aged cheese such as cheddar, Gouda, or Parmesan
3. sauerkraut, kimchi and other pickled vegetables
4. sourdough bread
5. miso (fermented barley or soy or rice)
6. tempeh – fermented soy
7. kombucha – fermented tea that is gaining in popularity in the US
8. beer and wine

As people are looking for short-cuts, a booming probiotic supplement industry has flourished in recent years.

If you are spending money on probiotics, you may be throwing your money away. It turns out that of the hundreds of billions of probiotic bacteria in each supplement pill, less than one hundred survive the passage through the stomach acids to emerge in the intestines and do their thing.

This is where prebiotics come in.

Prebiotics are non-living, non-digestible carbs that serve as food for probiotics. Unlike probitoics, prebiotics are not alive. Most prebiotics are some form of fiber. Our body does not digest fiber, but the bacteria in our gut, including the probiotics, do. Feeding these helpful bacteria keeps them doing what they are supposed to do in order to help our health.

Foods with prebiotics include:

1. raw chicory root – the top source, with almost 60% fiber
2. raw Jerusalem artichoke
3. raw garlic, leeks, and onions
4. whole wheat
5. fruits and vegetables
6. legumes

Since each person’s gut is unique, try and experiment with different foods and see what works for you. The best way to consume probiotics and prebiotics is via food, not supplements.

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Reverse Dieting

The hardest thing about weight loss isn’t losing the weight. It is keeping it off. One of the reasons people start to gain weight almost immediately after losing it is that they switch back from “diet eating” to “regular eating”.

This is where reverse dieting comes in. The concept isn’t new. It’s been used for years by bodybuilders and competitive weightlifters. Reverse dieting is the period of time after a person reaches their goal weight and gradually increases calorie intake to weight maintenance levels.

The benefit of reverse dieting is that it provides a framework for eating that is somewhere on the spectrum between diet and not diet. It keeps a person accountable, yet has more room for flexibility in what to eat.

However, the main problem with reverse dieting, is the dieting part that precedes it. As we have written before, going on a diet is something that doesn’t work because our brains and bodies aren’t wired to accommodate long term calorie restriction. Instead of a diet, you should opt for a sustainable lifestyle change, one in which you eat healthier food, sleep well, and exercise. True, it will take longer to lose weight, but it will stay off too. Think long term, and you’ll be better off for it.

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Whole Foods Slashes Prices After Sale to Amazon

Amazon completed its multi-billion dollar acquisition of Whole Foods Market. As a first order of business, the online behemoth slashed prices across the board.

For example, organic avocados are down from $2.79 a pound to $1.99, a 29 percent discount. Atlantic-farmed salmon is down 33% to $7.99 per pound. Organic Fuji apples are down 43% to $1.99 a pound.

For years, Whole Foods was considered the rich people’s supermarket, with high quality products, but at outrageous prices. Often known as “Whole Paycheck”, the chain has been a trailblazer in organic, sustainable, ethical, and ethnic foods and beverages. The chain has helped educate the public and in doing so, carved itself a niche of loyal customers willing to spend more for healthier fare.

Amazon’s logistics, paired with Whole Foods’ food expertise sounds like a winning combination – healthy foods at low costs. However, economies of scale are often at odds with organic and sustainable practices. Think of grass-fed beef vs factory farmed beef. Will Amazon-Whole-Foods find the winning formula?

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Boxed Water

As any member of the Training Floor knows, we are big proponents of calorie-free liquid intake. This means coffee and tea sans sweeteners, but for the most part water.

While the cheapest and most reliable source of water is your tap, some people prefer to buy bottled water. The problem with bottled water is the plastic waste it produces. Despite best efforts to recycle plastics, over half of plastic bottles end up in landfills or the ocean.

That’s where Boxed Water comes in. The young company is selling water packaged in recyclable cartons. Have you seen these in your supermarket?

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Interval Weight loss

The only thing harder than losing weight is keeping it off. That’s why the vast majority of people who lose weight, end up gaining it back.

There is an evolutionary explanation for this. The human body has a weight equilibrium, also known as the set weight point. When someone loses too much weight, alarms go off in the hormonal system, releasing chemicals that signal to the brain that the body needs more food, right now. As a result, the more weight you lose, the harder it is to keep from compensating by overeating.

A new approach to trick the body may be an effective solution to the problem. Instead of losing all the weight in one fell swoop, try interval dieting. Aim to lose 3 to 5 pounds for one month. Then, maintain that loss for one to two months, causing the body to think that this is the new set weight point. Then take another month to lose 3-5 pounds. Rinse and repeat.

Yes, this approach means much slower weight loss. However, it may increase your chances of long term weight maintenance once you do reach your goal weight. We like this train of thought for another reason. It allows a person to make gradual lifestyle changes, such as eating home cooked meals, eating more fruits and vegetables, and reducing sugar addiction. When you take things slowly, it is easier to adapt. Good luck!

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Panera’s Commendable Decision

Panera Bread made a bold decision last week. The restaurant chain is now disclosing the amount of added sugars in all its foods and beverages. What’s even nicer, is that the information is being displayed in teaspoon instead of grams. For the average American, 68 grams are meaningless, but 17 teaspoons is something relatable.

Kudos to Panera Bread for taking this step forward in transparency. Of course, this is a calculated business decision. Earlier this year, the chain introduced a line of lower-sugar beverages, meaning a soda with 6 teaspoons of added sugars no longer seems too unhealthy compared to a 17-teaspoon soda. Additionally, the company is privately held, which means it is easier to make decisions that would be unpopular on Wall-Street in the short term.

Hopefully, one day, Panera and other chains will do away entirely with soft drinks. It’s hard to imagine this happening, as the profit margin on beverages is usually hundreds of percents. You can vote for your health, and make do with cold water or sugar-less tea.

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Why People Eat Less Red Meat

Once a mainstay of the American diet, consumption of red meat has steadily declined since the 1960’s.  This is due to its association with increased risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and other degenerative diseases.

Notably, red meat has several excellent features, beyond taste. From a nutrition standpoint, it contains a wealth of nutrients, such as protein, iron, zinc, B vitamins and others.

To its detriment, red meat has a high level of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, nitrates, added hormones/ antibiotics as well as other components that are linked with diseases. Studies conducted by Harvard’s School of Public Health show how individuals who consumed daily servings of pork, lamb or beef tripled their risk of developing colon cancer.

Many nutritionists and dietitians advise on reducing red meat consumption to a few times per week. Alternatives to red meat are: poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, soy, legumes, grains and other plant-based sources.

If you decide to switch or transition to a mostly plant-based diet, it is important to understand which vitamins and minerals you will need to focus on. The protein composition and bioavailability of some nutrients (ie. iron, vitamin B12, etc.) are not comparable to red meat.

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I’ve Never Met a Blueberry I Didn’t Love

This is the true and uncensored confession of a blueberry addict.

Blueberry consumption (and production) in the US has skyrocketed since 1995. from just 1 pound of blueberries a year in the 1990’s, today the average American consumes nearly 5 pounds of blueberries. Of course, averages are a lie, because I personally eat about 3 million blueberries each summer.

As an American, I am proud to let you know that blueberries are a native Northeast plant. Made in America, baby!!

There are 2 types of blueberries grown in the USA – highbush and wild (lowbush). The highbush berries are big and pretty and served mostly fresh – yummy. Wild blueberries are smaller and mostly used in food preparation, especially my blueberry muffins and pancakes.

July is national Blueberry Month, and is peak season for my little blue friends. This is why these precious babies are most affordable now. Not to mention that their flavor is incomparable. The season begins in May and lasts until early Fall. I get withdrawal symptoms in September.

I was surprised to learn that blueberries are only blue on the outside, and that their flesh is actually green. The blue tinted skin is an indication of the presence of anthocyanins, a set of powerful antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of cancer. Woot!

As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of blueberries. They are my go to snack. Not only do they taste great, they are very low in calories – just 40 calories for a half-cup serving. I’m a lean, mean blueberry guzzling machine.

My wife is a dietitian, and she asked me to throw in the following information about Blueberries, which I will sum up as follows: BBs are a nutrition powerhouses. A half-cup serving of blueberries has 25% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C and manganese, as well as 4 grams of fiber (15% of the daily recommended intake).

Whatever. Get in my belly!

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Coconut Oil Unhealthy, Says New Research

Coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fats, yet somehow people think it is a healthy oil. In fact, 3 out of 4 Americans rated it as healthy. Even 1 out of 3 dietitians rate coconut oil as healthy. The last time we posted about coconut oil was 3 years ago. We wrote that emerging evidence about the makeup of saturated fats in coconut oil may render it “less unhealthy” than other saturated fats such as butter or lard. Our recommendation was limited consumption.

A recent meta-study published in Circulation, and endorsed by the American Heart Association, has determined that coconut oil consumption is unhealthy. This is due to the fact that it increases levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. As a reminder, increased LDL levels are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

According to the authors, in 7 out of 7 studies comparing coconut oil to vegetable oils (mostly unsaturated fats), the former raised LDL levels, but the latter did not. In 6 of the studies, LDL levels rose significantly.

Detractors of the study claim that it does not differentiate between different types of LDL bad cholesterol, each with different levels of risk associated with it.
Limit your consumption of foods high in saturated fat, including coconut oil.

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