This Statistic About What Defines “Whole Grain” Will Stun You

By Elena Sheppard

You’re probably not eating what you think you’re eating.

Here’s a wild statistic: The FDA defines whole grain “as food that contains 51 percent or more whole grain ingredient(s).” And even that 51% can be “reconstituted” — meaning it’s made up of pieces of wheat kernels from various farms being blended together – definitely not a whole grain.

The Western diet is packed with grains. While many of the grains we eat are refined, research proves that whole grains are really what we should be consuming. Unfortunately finding purely whole grain products is more difficult than one might assume. With the FDA statistic in mind, the best way to know the food you’re buying is whole grain, is to look for labels that say, “100% stoneground whole grain” or “100% stoneground wheat” or “100% stoneground whole wheat.”

That said, understanding why making the switch to whole grains is important requires a look at what exactly refined grains really are.

What are refined grains?

Grains, (refined grains,) are a pretty traditional staple of the American breakfast. Refined grains are in our morning toast, our cereal and oatmeal, in addition to rice, pasta and foods we usually indulge in during non-breakfast moments of the day. While grains, generally speaking, are good for us and loaded with complex carbohydrates, making the switch to whole grains is important if we want to be getting  all the nutrients we can and enjoying the most delicious flavors.

Refined grains are grains that have been milled, which is a process that removes their bran and germ and simultaneously lengthens their shelf life. Unfortunately, the milling process also rids the grains of many nutrients — including protein, fiber, and many other micronutrients.

When it comes to breakfast foods the switch from refined grains to whole grains is pretty easy to do. Swap your white toast for whole-grain bread, your regular cereal for 100% stone ground cereal, or your normal old pancakes to whole-grain buckwheat pancakes. The health benefits are hard to ignore.

Why are whole grains better for us?

The main reason: they’re loaded with more nutrients. In addition to having more fiber, whole wheat also has more magnesium, potassium, and selenium (which has antioxidant properties). More reasons why whole grains are good for you?

  • They’re digested slowly, which means they help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.
  • They help prevent against Type 2 Diabetes.
  • They lower cholesterol levels
  • Whole grains also help prevent heart disease.
  • And they reduce risks of stroke, cancer, in addition to reducing blood pressure.

Of course, eating whole grains alone is not enough to turn an unhealthy diet into a healthy one. The truth is though, it’s all about making healthy choices. And making a choice as simple as switching your refined grains to whole grains is a pretty painless way to look after your health. Who wouldn’t want to start every morning by taking their health into their own hands?

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Here Are the Surprising Diets NFL Stars Swear By

By Dylan Love

Football season is upon us, and your favorite athletes have been prepping in ways beyond their intense physical training. They’ve been eating and eating and eating.

NFL diets used to be pretty casual to say the least. It was common for players to consume between 7,000-8,000 calories a day without a care as to what they were putting in their bodies. Supersized portions of “heavy” foods like grits, eggs, burgers, macaroni and cheese, steak, and fries were all fair game for players trying to maintain a competitive weight.

But according to Dr. Susan M. Kleiner, a nutrition consultant for the Seattle Seahawks and former full-time nutritionist for the Cleveland Browns, things have changed since she first started working with NFL teams in the early ‘90s.

Back then, she explains, the goal was just to gain weight by eating as many calories as possible. Then coaches and players started focusing more on body composition and healthy diets in order to reduce risk of heart disease and injury. This plan was ultimately better for the players’ health and well-being.

We see this mindset taking full form in the NFL today. Meal plans are individualized, based on each player’s’ position, size, and metabolism. Instead of consuming calories full of fats and starches to help gain weight, there’s an emphasis on consuming lean meats and vegetables to build strong muscle.

We did some investigating on how “eating clean” has taken shape in the NFL today, especially in some of your favorite players’ diets.

Rashad Jennings – New York Giants

First up is Rashad Jennings, a running back for the NYG and nutrition all-star. Over the years, Jennings has made a conscious effort to not only eliminate junk food from his diet, but also stop counting calories and focus on being “fuel-efficient.” This means he actively chooses foods that fuel him, rather than foods that require him to unnecessarily use up energy to break them down.

He eats between 3-4 full meals a day, but still enjoys snacking like any normal human. Jennings describes himself as a “whole food eater,” choosing snacks that function as “mini meals” in order to keep him going between full meals. Instead of a bag of chips, he goes for fruit, turkey meatballs, or hummus on toast with avocado and turkey bacon, which ensures that he gets plenty of fiber, protein, and necessary healthy fats.

Steve Weatherford – New York Giants

Here’s another Giants player who shines in the world of nutrition, though he might be lesser-known. Steve Weatherford is a punter, but he’s also said to be the Giants’ strongest player. With just 5.5 percent body fat and the ability to bench press almost 400 pounds, he’s absolutely ripped.

Protein is key to Weatherford’s diet. He eats about 200 grams of protein a day by consuming egg whites, bunless turkey burgers, lean ground beef lasagna, and of course, whey protein. For whatever it’s worth, the FDA’s daily recommendation is 50 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet.

David Carter – Chicago Bears

Carter is a defensive lineman, which means he’s regularly weighed — it’s a position where 250 pounds makes you look puny. But Carter is a whopping 300 pounds and he’s maintaining that weight with a vegan diet.

It started in 2014 when he was struggling to gain weight by eating unhealthy foods, as well as battling tendonitis and several other injuries. But within a month of going vegan, he was running better, lifting heavier, and starting to relieve the pain in his joints.

He eventually made it back up to 300 pounds, but that required lots and lots of eating on his part. Carter was consuming as much as 10,000 calories a day on his vegan diet. Specifically, he was eating five meals a day with four 20-ounce protein shakes between them. His total protein intake is 1.2 grams of protein per pound per day, which typically comes from brown rice and black or cannellini beans.

Matt Kalil – Minnesota Vikings

Kalil is an offensive tackle, so he’s in another position that requires a lot of weight maintenance. His target weight is 315 pounds, so he’s eating anywhere between 5,000-7,000 calories per day, and taking care to ensure he’s building up muscle, and not just fat.

This means Kalil is consuming three meals a day, consisting of lean meat, pasta, and sweet potatoes. Like most of his fellow NFL players, he tries to eat snacks between meals (typically peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). But his prime weight-gain comes from three high-calorie shakes per day, with 60 grams of protein in each.

Tom Brady – New England Patriots

According to Dr. Kleiner, quarterbacks like Tom Brady need a minimum of 4,000 calories a day, but up to 6,000 calories per day depending on training. That being said, Brady’s diet is pretty bizarre in comparison to his NFL counterparts.

It’s incredibly strict. His personal chef notes that Brady cannot have white sugar or flour, caffeine, dairy, coffee, and certain fruits. His chef has also restricted some veggies from his diet, including mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. Brady has also shared that he doesn’t cook with olive oil.

So what can he eat? Apparently, mostly vegetables (in fact, they make up 80 percent of his diet), but also: Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and beans, plus meats like grass-fed organic steak, duck, chicken, and wild salmon.

***

Of course, these guys are professional athletes whose dietary needs are quite outside the norm. Until you need to pack on another 100-150 pounds of muscle yourself, it’s best to look at the NFL roster’s eating habits as a fun, informative oddity.

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10 Corporations Control Almost All the World’s Food

By Dylan Love

Almost everything you eat comes from the same collection of 10 food companies.

Let that sink in.

1

This image — found on the social media site Reddit — shows just how far the big food companies tentacles stretch. Just ten food companies combine to produce a massive amount of the food and drink we all consume. For some consumers, these 10 companies reflect nearly the vast majority of daily calories consumed. The extent of big food’s corporate centralization is staggering, especially when you consider the essential staples. The industry’s vertical and horizontal integration has led to corporate control of an incredible array of food products. Nestlé, for example – best known for its chocolate –  also makes baby food. Soda company PepsiCo owns KFC. Cereal brand General Mills owns yogurt Yoplait.

Here’s a breakdown of the five biggest food producers:

 

Nestlé SA

Market Capitalization: $152.87 billion

Revenue: $90.3 billion

Profits: $9.1 billion

Employees: 335,000

Headquarters: Vevey, Switzerland

Originally a milk and baby food provider, Nestlé has broadened its operations to include a variety of popular food products. While Nestle has received high marks from Oxfam International for its commitments to socially responsible operations, it is still criticized for being complicit in grabbing land to muscle out small farmers.

 

PepsiCo Inc.

Market Capitalization: $179.35 billion

Revenue: $63.06 billion

Profits: $34.67 billion

Employees: 263,00

Headquarters: Purchase, New York

Longtime Coke competitor, Pepsi has surpassed its rival becoming the world’s second largest food and drink vendor. Indian-American CEO Indra Nooyi has earned praise for her leadership and vision of reform for the company.

 

The Coca-Cola Company

Market Capitalization: $179.35 billion

Revenue: $44.29 billion

Profits: $26.81 billion

Employees: 700,000

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

From a 19th-century soda drink, the Coca-Cola Company has evolved into a multinational beverage goliath. Its savvy advertising cemented the company as a global icon. Outside of its definitive brown drink, Coke also owns Fanta, Dasani, Minute Maid, Fresca, Simply Orange, and a variety of other drink brands.

 

General Mills

Market Capitalization: $36.8 billion

Revenue: $16.56 billion

Profits: $5.85 billion

Employees: 39,000

Headquarters: Golden Valley, Minnesota

A definitive multinational food business, General Mills’ products are completely ubiquitous: Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Haagen-Dazs, and Cheerios are all offshoots of the General Mills machine, just to name a few. The company has garnered its share of criticism for deceptive advertising on the health benefits of its cereals.

 

Mars

Market Capitalization: unknown

Revenue: $33 billion

Profits: unknown

Employees: unknown

Headquarters: McLean, Virginia

As a family-owned private company, Mars provides little financial information about itself. The producer of iconic snacks like M&Ms, Skittles, Snickers, and Twix has made commitments to drop partnerships with suppliers of palm oil and cocoa that violate human rights, deforest sensitive land, and contribute to climate change. Because of its lackluster history in these areas, time will tell.

 

***

It’s easy to feel like corporate tentacles have too closely wrapped themselves around our food supply. If you’re anxious knowing that money spent on food ultimately goes to just a handful of these companies, you can vote every day with your dollar. Buy more fresh produce and cook at home more often. And visit farmers markets and local food co-ops. The good news is though these 10 companies control most of what we eat, there are thousands of artisan and smaller producers and a burgeoning new food movement bringing new values and transparency into the food system.

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Here Are the Best Ways to Keep Your Fruits and Veggies Fresh When Storing Them

By Elena Sheppard

You buy delicious looking produce, bring it home, and before you know it your fruits are rotting and your salad fixings look limp. It’s a food storage fate that befalls us all but that doesn’t make it any less annoying (or any less of a waste of food and money). Well good news: spoiling can be avoided if the proper storing measures are taken. Keeping your food fresh does not have to be complicated, and here are some very easy-to-follow steps we recommend to keep your food fresh.  

Keep your fruits and veggies separate

Most of us buy produce, bring it home, and put it in one of the fridge drawers without worrying about what else is in there. Well, heads up: fruits and veggies shouldn’t really be hanging out. Fruit produces high levels of ethylene which causes vegetables to spoil more quickly. Quick tip: Keep fruits and vegetables apart.

Vegetables need to breath

Storing vegetables in air-tight plastic is a no-no. Vegetables need to breath, so before you store them poke some holes in the bag they’re in. They also need a little room around them, so don’t pack vegetables too tight or they’re likely to rot more quickly.

Don’t treat all fruit the same

Different fruits have very different demands. Non-cherry stone fruits — apples, mangos, pears etc. — can happily ripen on a counter for a few days. Other fruits, like grapes and citrus fruits, should go into the fridge. As for bananas, they ripen fast! When they reach a ripeness you like, try putting them in the fridge to slow the process.

Beware the moldy berry

When you look into your container of raspberries or blueberries you’ll likely see at least one rotten or moldy one: get rid of it. One moldy berry quickens the spread of mold to the whole bunch.

Don’t wash your food until you want to eat it

Dampness hastens bacteria growth, so you’re better off keeping your food dirty; at least until you’re ready to eat it.

Keep tomatoes and potatoes out of the fridge

Refrigerating tomatoes won’t hurt them, but it definitely won’t help their taste. A refrigerated tomato often loses its flavor, its aroma, and becomes mealy. You’re better off keeping tomatoes on the counter. As for potatoes, they like a cool, dark, dry place. The starch in potatoes turns to sugar when too cold, so the fridge is definitely not where they want to be.

Herbs are a little high maintenance

Herbs are tricky. Before you refrigerate herbs it’s good to wash them, dry them, cut of their ends and put them in a glass of water (as if they were flowers) and then stick them in the fridge. If that seems weird, you can do the washing/drying/cutting process and then put them in a ziploc bag with a dampened paper towel. You can also freeze herbs with water in ice cube trays. When it’s time to cook, just pop them out.

And lastly, lettuce

Wilted lettuce is a total downer. To avoid that from happening, put a paper towel over your lettuce (or wrapped around it) and then put it in a plastic bag. This will absorb the moisture and keep the lettuce crisp and fresh.

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What Do the 5 Healthiest Cities In America Eat?

By Matt Rozsa

What makes certain cities healthy and others unhealthy?

The healthiest eaters in America’s large cities are found in the metropolitan areas of:

  1. San Francisco-Oakland (CA)
  2. New York-Newark-Long Island (NY/NJ/CT)
  3. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville (CA)
  4. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos (CA)
  5. Washington-Arlen-Alexandria (DC/VA/MD)

These cities all share one trend in their diets: they eat lots of fruits and veggies. On average, the residents in these metropolises eat 34 to 37 servings of fruits and vegetables each week, including 11 to 13 servings of fruit, 5 to 7 servings of green salad, 2 to 4 servings of carrots, and 13 to 15 servings of other vegetables.

By contrast, America’s most obese cities are notorious for their deep-fried cuisines. The three most obese cities in the country are all from the South: Memphis, Birmingham, and San Antonio. As the American Heart Journal has found, a “Southern” style diet is the worst possible choice for your cardiovascular health. 

More than anything, these statistics underscore the importance of maintaining a well-balanced diet. For an intake of 2,000 calories each day, the average person will each day need to consume 6 to 8 servings of grains, 4 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 to 3 servings of low-or-no-fat dairy products, 2 to 3 servings of fats and oils, and 6 or fewer servings of lean meats, poultry and seafood. Sweets should generally be avoided to remain under 2,000 calories, although it is okay to have 5 or fewer each week; similarly, one shouldn’t have more than 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes on a weekly basis.

Because so much of our diet is based around cultural pressures, cities with culinary traditions that mesh with our body’s needs contain healthier citizens. On the other hand, a poor dietary culture — such as one that favors deep-fried dishes, as in the Southern United States — will result in a larger section of the population succumbing to obesity.

If we want to make the public healthier, we need to encourage awareness both of unhealthy cultural traditions that should be reevaluated (and perhaps even modified) and alleviate the financial burdens that prevent low-income individuals from making the healthiest possible eating choices. Sometimes the solution to national problems like the obesity epidemic involve little more than common sense.

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This Is the Real “Orange Flavor” You’ve Been Drinking in Orange Juice

By Matt Rozsa

It’s very easy to be duped by products that sound natural but aren’t. Take orange juice. As long as it’s “100% juice,” that means you’re safe, right? After all, the back of the package says that the main ingredient is “oranges.” How can that not be good for you?

The problem with this assumption is that it grossly misunderstands how orange juice is made, at least when produced on a mass scale. In order to prevent the squeezed juice from spilling, manufacturers heat it up using a process known as “deaeration.” While this helps preserve the liquid itself, it also removes almost all of its flavor… which means consumers at the markets won’t think it tastes or smells like “real juice.”

To get around this, orange juice companies add different “flavor packs.” Developed by perfume companies from oranges and their skins, each company has their own distinct formula that constitutes its individualized “taste.” In North America, this usually involves a high amount of ethyl butyrate; in Mexico and Brazil, the chemicals may be decanals or valencine. Regardless of what you choose, though, the chemicals that add the “orange juice” flavor to your orange juice have been so altered that they barely resemble real orange juice by the time you drink it.

Nevertheless, when you check that orange juice package, it probably won’t indicate that this is the case. According to the FDA’s logic, those flavor packs can be labeled as “oranges” because they initially contained ingredients derived from the actual orange fruit. Comforting, right?

This rule is hardly limited to orange juice. Although “natural flavor” is the fourth most common ingredient listed on food labels, it can refer to substances that contain anywhere from 50 to 100 additional ingredients. Anything from cereal and granola bars to apple juice and organic shakes can be adulterated in this way – an important consideration as you’re reading labels and gauging the nutritional and “natural” value of the product.

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The Science Behind Why You Should Never Store These Foods Together

By Dylan Love

There’s a science to storing your food for maximum freshness.

All foods are different and have specific storage needs to prevent spoilage. There are some common sense basics around what can or can’t be stored in your fridge, on your countertop, or even in your bread basket. But there’s also a science lurking under the surface, requiring you to be mindful of what you store together

Ethylene gas, or “the ripening hormone,” is the star of the show here. It’s a colorless, odorless, hydrocarbon gas that is almost exclusively produced by your favorite fruit items. Apples, apricots, avocados, ripe bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, kiwifruits, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, and plantains are some examples of foods that are said to be ethylene-producing. Ethylene is essentially a natural plant hormone in gas form, encouraging food cells to degrade and the food itself to ripen. It makes food softer and sweeter, causes leaves to droop, and sprouts to occur.  

While some foods produce this gas, others react to it. When the two neighbor each other, they can interact. For the most part, it is vegetables that are classified as ethylene-sensitive, and it’s a pretty long list: arugula, asparagus, beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green onion, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes, and spinach.

By storing your apples and fresh greens in the same refrigerator drawer, you’re actually making the greens spoil faster — the ethylene gas emitted by the apples is tricking the greens into ripening ahead of time. It speeds up the process, so your vegetables turn to rot more quickly when they are exposed to ripe or overripe fruits.

The solution is simple. To avoid untimely spoilage of your fresh produce, don’t store fruits and vegetables together. Keep them in separate drawers and away from each other.

You may have heard that you can’t store potatoes and onions together either. This rule applies for the same reason as fruits and vegetables. Onions are ethylene producers and potatoes are ethylene-sensitive. If you keep them near each other, the ethylene will cause your potatoes to start sprouting little green buds, which you don’t really want to eat.

The release of ethylene gas can actually be used to your advantage in some cases. Sometimes you want to accelerate the ripening of certain foods, which is perfectly cool. The key to doing so effectively is in your storage strategy.

For example, let’s say you just purchased a bunch of tomatoes, and they’re not quite as ripe as you’d like them to be. In order to get them to ripen quickly, place them in a paper bag. Tomatoes are ethylene producers, so they’ll actually speed up the process of their own ripening since you’re trapping the gas in the bag with them. A quick note that this only works with a paper bag — don’t use a plastic bag, because that will trap moisture and actually cause your tomatoes to rot.

These are simple methods for keeping your kitchen produce at its freshest. Consider this list of ethylene-sensitive and ethylene-producing foods when you’re next stocking your shelves. But know the general rule is easy: keep your fruits and vegetables away from each other!

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Here Are the Seasons That Specific Fruits and Veggies Taste the Absolute Best

By Dylan Love

The season of the year and the freshness of your produce are inextricably linked.

You may be unsure of what “in season” means, but the truth is, produce in your grocery store should be reflecting the seasonal harvest. Fruits and vegetables taste better and fresher at certain times of the year when they’re being picked from the fields — yet, your grocery store probably offers the same produce selection everyday.

While fruits and vegetables are available in our grocery stores year-round, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fresh. You can truly taste the difference between a freshly picked apple and one that’s been sprayed with chemicals and preservatives to maintain the appearance of freshness. Would you willingly put the latter in your body if you had the option to eat more cleanly?

Eating seasonally, locally, and organically has become a common lifestyle choice and with plenty of reason — there are multiple benefits to eating what’s in season beyond just doing what’s better for your body. Not only does your wallet benefit in the long run, but buying in season also stimulates the local economy. Though the improved taste alone would probably be enough to sway you.

Here’s a couple of seasonal produce highlights to help guide you through the next year:

Fall

Autumn, with its crisp and cool weather, makes us think of pumpkin flavors and warm, hearty meals. Unsurprisingly, pumpkins are a seasonal fall food. Winter squash also hits its prime during September and carries on through early March. Apples are another classic. They’re best harvested between September and November, but you can get them in your grocery store year-round. Other produce items in season include: beets, broccoli, grapes, mushrooms, garlic, fennel, figs, green onions, and potatoes.

Winter

Things get a little interesting around December, January, and February. You’d think that there’s no produce in-season during months where the ground seems to be dead and barren, but some fruits and veggies actually taste better when they’re harvested in cooler months. Broccoli, cabbage, artichokes and some citrus fruits all benefit from harvesting at this time. Such harvests are said to be “frost-kissed.”

Winter is the best time to pick up some citrus fruits: oranges, tangerines, kumquats, pears, kiwifruit, lemons, and persimmons are great choices. They’ll keep you full of vitamins through the cold, dark months. Cranberries are also very much in season during this time and deliciously sweet when cooked thoroughly. Other produce in season during the colder months include beets, potatoes, kale, celery, fennel, and other greens.  

Spring

Spring brings plenty of new fruits and veggies to the table. Spring means that tasty apricots, honeydew melons, and mangos are great additions to your daily fruit intake. They make for great healthy snacks during a spring afternoon. It’s also the season for carrots, which are available in the spring and through the early summer (be sure to buy local and steer clear of the grocery store version of “baby carrots). Other fruits and veggies that thrive during March, April, and May include asparagus, cherries, arugula, mint, fava beans, lettuce, peas, and strawberries (which peak from April through June).

Summer

June, July, and August typically mean lazy days grilling out with friends and family — there are plenty of seasonal items to be had during these months. Watermelon and corn are both seasonal summer produce items that make a great addition to any backyard barbecue. Tomatoes are in season once June hits, but they’re good well through August. Not a bad time to pick some up and slice them for your burgers. Other tasty summer produce includes avocados, okra, cucumbers, berries, peppers, and summer squash.

Happy eating!

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These Ancient Remedies Were Used For Generations Instead of Pharmaceuticals

By Matt Rozsa

When we think of medicines today, our minds tend to wander toward pills composed of synthetic substances and concocted in sterile laboratories. Yet natural substances have a wide range of medicinal properties that have been utilized. These four even date back to ancient Roman times! 

Poppy

Poppy is one of the oldest natural medicines, with its use being traced back to Sumerian drug recipes, ancient Roman texts, military manuals, and medieval medical schools. When the pharmacological revolution occurred in the early 19th century, one of its first milestones was the discovery and isolation of alkaloids from poppy plants in 1806. Extracts have been used as muscle relaxants (particularly to treat diarrhea and abdominal cramping), sedatives, and to create morphine (from the opium poppy).

Ginseng

The ancient Chinese Emperor Shen Nung wrote a book 4500 years ago, “Pen T’Sao,” which includes ginseng among the 365 medicinal plants worthy of being regularly used. Studies have found possible benefits to the immune system, blood sugar levels, concentration and learning, physical endurance, and mood. In addition to this mixture of possible physical and psychological boosts, though, ginseng has side effects that range from the mild (nervousness and insomnia) to the more serious (depression or allergic reactions). As a result, experts suggest that it not be taken for more than three months at a time without a doctor’s recommendation and that it be avoided by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Aloe

Ancient Egyptian and Roman sources mention medical uses for aloe, and it was well known to be used by medieval Arabs. Its applications range from treating diabetes, hepatitis, arthritis, and inflammation (in the case of aloe gel) to serving as laxatives (in the case of aloe latex). It has also been reported to treat skin conditions like acne, baby rash, and psoriasis, as well as helping heal wounds by improving blood circulation and preventing cell death. That said, it does carry the risk of causing dependency (if used as a laxative) and has enough potential side effects, particularly for individuals who are already sick or are taking medication, that it’s smart to consult one’s doctor before using it for purposes other than applying it to the skin to reduce pain or inflammation or treat diseases and injuries.

Honey

Like aloe, honey has been used to treat wounds since the days of the ancient Romans. Because honey contains enzymes that release hydrogen peroxide, it can help accelerate healing and prevent infection.

These are only a few of the plants and other natural substances that are commonly used as medicine today. Others include St. John’s wort, Ginkgo biloba, garlic, saw palmetto, chamomile, and ginger.

Special thanks to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Collective Evolution, The Week, Drugs.com, WebMD, University of Maryland Medical Center, and The Mayo Clinic for the information contained in this article.

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These 3 Common Food Additives Are Being Linked to Food Allergies

By Matt Rozsa

If you experience an allergic reaction to certain foods, it may not be because of the foods themselves. Scientific studies have found that food additives — substances which are added to foods to improve their taste or appearance — can cause these allergic reactions. Although most food additives are harmless, some of them can have a harmful effect on the people who eat them, especially when they aren’t aware of what they’re putting into their bodies. 

The most recent additive found to stimulate allergic reactions is (1) tBHQ (or tert-butylhydroquinone), which is commonly found in cooking oils, breads, crackers, waffles, and nuts. As a scientist at Michigan State University discovered, this preservative can also cause allergic reactions to foods like milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, and shell fish. Another additive that has been reported to stimulate allergic relations in a small number of patients (2) are sulphites. These have been used as anti-browning agents during the manufacturing process for many foods, as well as preservatives, and appear in everything from dried fruit and white vegetables to alcoholic beverages like wine and beer and seafood. Certain people with asthma can be hypersensitive to sulphites, and there have been reports of sulphites triggering skin reactions as well.

Sulphites aren’t the only preservatives that have been linked to these kinds of problems. (3) Benzoates and Parabens (which are added to medicines and beverages like sugar free Coke) may cause urticaria, asthma, and angioedema, while antioxidants that are added to prevent spoiling can trigger asthma, rhinitis, and urticaria. Similarly, additives that exist to enhance a food’s flavor can lead to allergic responses, such as the sweetener aspartame (which can cause urticaria, itchy hives, and swelling) and monosodium glutamate (MSG), commonly found in restaurant Chinese food, which can lead to headaches, burning, and a tight sensation in the face, neck, and chest.

It is important to point out that not all people will have allergic reactions to food additives. Indeed, the reactions that have been reported in the past have only occurred in a small number of people. That said, when people eat their favorite foods, they rarely imagine that there are foreign substances completely unrelated to what would naturally occur within that product. This is the risk that one takes when purchasing non-organic materials — namely, that your bread or beer or Chinese food contains more than what you’d naturally assume is there.

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Why Mushrooms Are Just So Darn Good For Us

By Elena Sheppard

Let’s talk about mushrooms, not “magic” mushrooms, or “special” mushrooms, just good old fashioned put them on your hamburger, or in your salad, or on the grill, mushrooms. Mushrooms are packed with health benefits and are easy to incorporate into just about any meal (breakfast omelettes, anyone?). Let’s discuss.

So why exactly are mushrooms so good for us? Let’s break it down. First of all, mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D and are one of the only fruits or vegetables (to be fair, mushrooms are actually fungi) to contain this highly necessary vitamin. Just like us humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. As a result, mushrooms can provide important amounts of vitamin D to the human diet.

There is also evidence that mushrooms help to boost the immune system. Shiitake mushrooms, Reishi mushrooms, and Maitake mushrooms are all known to have health advantages. Shiitake mushrooms in particular are great for regulating gut health; in addition to helping out the general immune system, Reishi mushrooms have also been found to combat cancerous tumors; meanwhile, Maitake mushrooms are used to combat a variety of ailments.

Other mushroom super powers? They help promote skin and nervous system health. They’re also rich in potassium and selenium — a mineral known for its antioxidant properties and known for helping to prevent bladder cancer — as well as vitamin B which helps support a healthy metabolism. In fact, the type of B12 found in mushrooms is the same as what is found in meat, making mushrooms a great meat substitute for all the vegetarians out there. With so many health benefits, some are even taking to calling mushrooms the “hidden superfood.”

As for where to get the very best mushrooms, shopping at the grocery store or farmer’s market is always an option, but growing your own mushrooms isn’t so hard either, as long as you stick to all the necessary health guidelines. All that mushrooms really require to flourish is a cool dark spot to grow (under a sink or in a basement works). Mushrooms grow from spores, not seeds, and while that may make it sound like things are a bit more complicated, they really aren’t especially if you take on your homegrown mushroom project with a kit. Back to the Roots has our very own mushroom growing kit, in case you want to start home harvesting this “hidden superfood.”

Whatever your mushroom persuasion, know the health odds are in your favor. Chowing down on some mushrooms is straight up good for you. The hallucinogenic kinds…well that’s not for us to say!

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Is Organic Alcohol Actually Better For You?

By Elena Sheppard

You may already be eating organic, but are you drinking organic too? A lot of us are extremely careful about the food we consume, but we let our guards down a bit when it comes to drinking. The truth is, the same rules that apply to organic food, apply to organic alcohol and by in large the same health benefits are true too. Internationally, people are starting to get that memo and organic alcohol is on the uptick — in Australia, production of organic wine went up 120% between 2011-2014 — but here in the U.S. there is still a little ways to go before it becomes popular. That said, if you’re dedicated to eating organic and eating your best, it’s important to know how to drink your best too.

So, what is organic alcohol? Organic alcohol is alcohol made from ingredients grown on organic farms, which is then processed in very specific distilleries. That is all to say, that when you’re drinking organic alcohol you can be sure that the product and its ingredients are free of harmful pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals. With the lack of all these components, organic alcohol is also better for the environment.

What kinds of organic alcohols are out there? You can find an organic version of most types of alcohol: Beer, wine, vodka, rum, tequila, the list goes on. Going organic does not mean having to sacrifice your favorite drink.

How about the taste? For the most part it tastes the same! Some people even think that when it comes to liquor, the organic versions go down more smoothly.

And, what about hangover intensity? While the official verdict is still out on this one, there are those who claim the purity of the organic alcohol spells less hangovers and those who claim it’s the same old hangover bag. While more research is needed to be sure, there is some indication that less chemicals in organic alcohol means a more tolerable morning after.

There is still a lot to learn about organic alcohol, but feel pretty confident saying we’ll be seeing more organic spirits on the shelves in the year’s to come. Better for us, better for the planet, goes down smooth? Sign us up. Now, we’ll just have to start working on that once-and-for-all hangover cure.  

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