Seattle Launched a Produce “Prescription” Program. It’s a Brilliant Idea.

By Matt Rozsa

When you’re sick and need to take medication, you get a prescription. But what ever happened to that idea by Hippocrates to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food?”

That’s the idea in Seattle, where the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic has teamed up with Harborview Medical Center and King County farmers markets with a clever idea to reduce diet-related diseases. Health care providers can now prescribe fruits and vegetables to their patients by writing vouchers for them.You don’t need insurance to get this “prescription” — just a doctor’s recommendation. The patients can then redeem those vouchers at farmers markets or farm stands, making nutritious, healthy food more accessible.

There is good reason to think this will work. When Detroit embarked on a similar program back in 2013, it reported a 93 percent success rate. Granted, it was on a much smaller scale, with only 48 participants who stayed on the fruit-and-vegetable prescription program that lasted for four months. That said, it was also very thorough and smart — each patient was allowed to purchase up to $40 worth of fruits and vegetables that were grown locally, averaging out to $10 each week. Because poor diets are born as much of bad habits as the bad foods themselves, the Detroit residents also received nutritional counseling and healthy cooking demonstrations so that they could use these ingredients in the most effective possible way.

Washtenaw County, which is also in Michigan, has a similar program. As long as a doctor determines that their patient is at risk for a food-related disease, the patient can attend a group enrollment visit and receive prescriptions for fruits and vegetables worth $100. These are spread out over 10 visits ($10 in tokens each) and, like in Detroit, program staff will provide information and support to facilitate the transition into healthy eating habits.

We love how Seattle and these other cities are reminding us of forgotten ancient wisdom of food being our medicine, and how they are helping institutionalize the change towards healthier food by working within the current health care system.

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How Food Companies Sneak 100 Extra Ingredients Into Your “Natural” Food

By Matt Rozsa

Unfortunately, these days  eating foods that are labelled as “natural” isn’t enough to guarantee that what you’re eating is actually natural, simple, or good for you.

In fact one of the most common use of the words “natural” is in the ingredient “natural flavor” — I’m sure you’ve seen it. In fact, it’s the fourth most commonly listed ingredient in food (!) after salt, water, and sugar.  

What’s crazy though, is that in those two little words, over 100 other ingredients can often be hiding — all chemicals that “impersonate” the real, natural flavor of your “natural food.”

If an ingredient is listed as a natural flavor, all it means is that it includes chemicals intended to give the impression of a given food’s authentic taste. The FDA defines them as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

The FDA says it “has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”


David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, sums it up perfectly: “How a food tastes is largely determined by the volatile chemicals in the food. Chemicals that give food a specific smell are extremely important because smell makes up 80 to 90 percent of the sense of taste … In processed food, this mixture of chemicals is called ‘flavor.’ The same mixture of chemicals would be called “fragrance” if it were found in cleaning products, perfumes or cosmetics. The difference between the two is small, and the companies that produce these secret mixtures are often exactly the same.”

There’s growing science as well that these chemicals, though deemed “Generally Regarded as Safe” by the FDA, may not be fully understood by scientists, and in fact could be causing many of the food allergies we see today. So if you want to be on the safer side and avoid eating the 100+ ingredients in “natural flavor,” definitely read each ingredient label to find products that are made with real food ingredients – not “flavor.”

In fact, one could view the use of natural flavors as really just a decades-long effort by big chemical corporations to train us to like a certain taste profile — making us addicted to the taste of their patented fragrance instead of the taste of food grown and eaten as Mother Nature intended, no patents needed.

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The Healthiest Apple You Can Eat This Fall Is This Color

By Elena Sheppard

It is officially apple season. And while an apple a day might keep the doctor away, certain types of apples are better for you than others. While comparing apples to apples might seem a bit overkill, there is somewhat of a hierarchy when it comes to apples and health.

There are over 7,500 types of apples out in the world. All of those types are low in calories and high in fibers and nutrients; AKA good for you. When it comes to which color apples are the best of the bunch, red apples take the cake. According to research done by Men’s Health, the red color is a product of “anthocyanins, a class of heart-disease-fighting polyphenols.” This information puts Red Delicious apples and Pink Lady apples at the top of the health list.

Pink Lady apples have another study in their corner. According to research done at the University of Western Australia, it was found that pink lady apples have the highest level of antioxidant flavonoids — which help repair cellular damage and decrease inflammation.

Other incredibly healthy apples include the Pendragon apple (also red), as well as organic versions of the Golden Delicious (yellow), the Collogett Pippin (red), Ben’s Red (red), Granny Smith (green), and Devonshire Quarrenden apples (red). So look for those names when you’re going apple picking or shopping.

Also, when buying apples, choose organic vs conventional apples. Organic apples carry far less toxic pesticides on them, and also are grown in a way that is much gentler on the farm and safer for the farmworkers picking your apples.

The other thing to keep in mind when it comes to apples is how nutrient-rich the peels are. The super good for you antioxidants in apples, (like quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin) are all found in the skin. So no matter what type of apple you eat, peeling it is for the birds.

Bottom line, eat your apples! Any apples. But if you want the apple that’s the best for you, go for something red and unpeeled. And with a Pink Lady, you truly can’t go wrong.

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Hops and Barley In Your Favorite Beer? Nope, It’s High Fructose Corn Syrup

By Elena Sheppard

Many healthy eaters drink beer on the regular. And while beer isn’t terrible for you when consumed in moderation, a closer look at beer ingredients makes it clear that more often than not when we toss back a cold one we’re ingesting different ingredients than we thought; most notably high fructose corn syrup and GMOs.

Have you ever noticed that beer labels don’t include nutritional information or ingredient lists? Thanks to regulations put in place by the FDA we know pretty much exactly what goes into all of our foods for purchase. But beer and spirits are an entirely different story. We might assume that our beer is made of hops, malt, and yeast but you know what they say about assuming . . .

Many of America’s favorite beers are loaded with unhealthy ingredients like GMO corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and MSG. The reason we’re not generally aware of this information is because, as USA Today reported, there are some “fairly complicated legal designations that separate food (headed up by the FDA) from some, but not all, alcohol (which is regulated by the Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau).” For that reason, beer companies get away with keeping their ingredients hush.  

Independent consumers and health blogs have done their own research and have found which beers exactly are the ones we should be avoiding. A few beers at the top of that list include:

  • Budweiser — which contains genetically modified rice
  • Corona Extra — GMO corn syrup and propylene glycol
  • Miller Lite — GMO corn and corn syrup
  • Michelob Ultra — genetically modified sweetener
  • Coors Lite — GMO corn syrup
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon — GMO corn and GMO corn syrup

While that’s all pretty bad news, the good news is that the laws might soon change and nutrition labels on beer may be just around the corner. According to CBS News, earlier this year “Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors, Constellation Brands and Heineken, which produce more than 80 percent of the beers sold in the U.S., announced plans to begin providing consumers with more nutritional information about the beers they sell.” The hope is that by 2020 this information will be common on beer packaging.

Pulling back the curtain on what’s in the beer we drink will only be a good thing. And truthful labels, which will show the less than stellar ingredients, are likely the first step in pressuring beer manufacturers to replace unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones. There’s no reason a night cap should involve GMOs or corn syrup, especially when we’re doing all we can to live healthful lives during the day.

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Love Beets Gets Back to Their Roots

ENTER TO WIN: Back to the Roots & Love Beets Goodies!

Our Roots

Since the beginning, Back to the Roots has been focused on exactly where our food comes from. The seed was planted in a college classroom, when our co-founders Alex and Nikhil learned that mushrooms could grow entirely on spent coffee grounds. After watching hours of how-to videos and turning their fraternity kitchen into a big science experiment, they eventually decided to give up their corporate job offers to instead become full-time mushroom farmers. Fast forward six years and what started as a curiosity about food has now blossomed into a full-fledged movement to Undo Food™ and reconnect families to where it comes from—from seed, to sprout, to spoon.

What does it mean to Undo Food™?

Undoing Food is about more than just products. It’s about growing the next generation of urban gardeners through education initiatives such as our “Grow One, Give One” campaign or teaching kids how to grow their own food in more than 2,300 schools nationwide. Through transparency, we are able to equip people with the tools they need to be healthy and informed. Staying true to our roots means connecting people to theirs – through family, education, and food. And while we’ve come a long way from growing mushrooms out of a fraternity kitchen, we still have a long way to go. Fortunately, we are not alone.

This week, we’re excited to partner with our friends Love Beets for a week of giveaways and recipes to celebrate what it means to stay true to your roots. Like us, they have been on an incredible journey to reconnect people to with their food, but we’ll let them tell you their story…

Love Beets’ Roots

Rooted to rise – that’s Love Beets’ attitude. Grounded in a family history of growing the best quality real food while blossoming into vibrant ventures, Love Beets knows the importance of remembering the tiny seed from which we’ve grown. Whole foods grown in nature are vitally important to personal and community health, and Love Beets remains committed to providing our fans with the utmost in freshness, quality, convenience, and taste.

Part of this commitment is our passion for a holistic attitude towards health. Community enrichment and spreading the superfood gospel at marathon expos and vegetarian festivals, through inventive recipes and donations to daycares, inspires Love Beets to continually innovate and improve our offerings. No mess, no fuss beets and crave-able organic beet juices entice beet lovers and beet newbies alike to delve into a world of veggie goodness – and we’re always on hand to answer any questions or generally chat wellness.

Staying true to our roots means that we don’t veer too far from our favorite ruby-red vegetable. Our products are simple, they’re tasty, and they’re here to make healthy choices that much easier to make.

Keep an eye out this week on our Facebook and Instagram pages for ways to celebrate staying true to your roots!

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8 Surprising Facts About Nutrition Labels

Reading nutrition labels can be intimidating and often times deceiving if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Here are eight things to pay close attention to when you’re making decisions about what to put in your body.

1. Serving Size

Many of us know a whole pint of ice cream contains more than one serving (some of us eat it all in one sitting anyway), but many foods and beverages contain a surprising (and unrealistic) serving size. For example, chips often have serving sizes that are unreasonably low – usually about 10 chips. Nutrition labels are calculated for one serving of a food. If you eat more than one serving, you’ll have to do some math, because once a serving size changes, everything on the label changes.


2. Calorie Count

The word “calories” has a negative connotation, but your body needs calories to produce energy (so you can do fun stuff like go for walks or work in your garden). As long as you are balancing the number of calories eaten and burned, you will maintain your weight. The number of calories you need per day is specific to your gender, activity level, and weight goals.

The number of calories in a serving of food is listed on the nutrition label, and directly next to the calorie count is a number showing calories from fat. Calories come from fats, proteins, or carbohydrates, with fat providing the most calories. Vitamins, minerals and indigestible fiber have no calories. A calorie is a calorie, regardless of where it comes from, but the source of calories does matter for health. For example, 100 calories in a big bowl of spinach come with lots of nutrients and fiber that will help fill you up, the 100 calories in one-third of a muffin have few nutrients, and are “empty” calories.


3. The Nutrients

You’re probably familiar with most of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals listed on a nutrition label, but some of them may not be so obvious. It’s worth doing research to fully understand what everything on the label means (including those sometimes mysterious ingredients listed at the bottom of the label). 

Here’s a quick cheat sheet:

Eat more of: dietary fiber, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron

Eat less of: fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium

Studies have found that trans fats significantly increase your risk of heart disease, because it raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. High LDL levels may put you at risk for heart disease because the cholesterol collects in the walls of your blood vessels, where it can cause blockages. High sodium intake can also lead to heart disease by increasing blood pressure.

Food labels break down total fat into saturated fats and trans fats (stay away from these), and total carbohydrates are broken down into dietary fibers (the good stuff) and sugars (the not so good stuff).


4. %DV

%DV looks like another cryptic code, but it stands for percent of Daily Value and helps you understand how much of your daily dietary needs are being met by a certain food.  %DV represents the percentage of a nutrient in one serving of a food in terms of the recommend amount of each nutrient per day. (Remember to think of this as per day and not just per meal.)

You’ll see a %DV next to things like carbohydrates, sodium, and dietary fiber on the label. The percentage makes it easy to compare nutrients in different foods as long as the serving sizes are similar. Aim for a percentage of 20% or more for nutrients you want to consume more of (like calcium) and look for a %DV of 5% or less in nutrients you want less of (like sodium).  %DVs are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which may differ a bit from your daily caloric intake.


5. Ingredient List

This is the most important part for knowing exactly what you’re eating. Food companies sometimes use cryptic language and make it confusing to figure out. For instance, there are a lot of words that really just mean sugar.  Ingredients are listed in order of the amount present in the food, so the first ingredient makes up the largest percentage and the last, the lowest.  

Our friend Michael Pollan has a few great recommendations in his book “Food Rules”:

  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third‐grader cannot pronounce.
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
  • Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature
  • Avoid food products that have more than 5 ingredients.


6. Flours: Enriched, Bleached, Whole Wheat

Enriched flour is in the majority of packaged food products you see on grocery shelves, but the name is definitely deceiving. “Enriched” flour actually has been stripped of nutrients during the refinement process, but B vitamins, iron, and sometimes calcium are added back in.

Bleached flour is turned from yellow to white using chemicals such as chlorine or benzoyl peroxide to oxidize the flour. Your body reacts to these refined carbs the same way it would to sugar!

For healthier, naturally nutrient-rich grain products, look for 100% whole wheat in the ingredients. Unbleached whole wheat flour offers higher fiber and protein for a similar amount of calories, so you’ll feel fuller for a longer period of time.


7. “Reduced” and “low”

These two words don’t mean the same thing and can be misleading. A food labeled as “reduced” simply means it contains at least 25 percent less of something, but doesn’t necessarily mean it has a low amount of it. For example, reduced fat sliced cheese may have 33% less fat than the full fat cheese, but it still has more than half its calories coming from fat and contains 11% of your daily recommended intake of saturated fat! And often, reduced ingredients are simply replaced with other, more unhealthy ingredients – like fat being replaced with sugar. No matter what the front of the label says in big bold letters, always check the actual numbers and serving size.

8. “Zero” and “free”

This one tidbit may have you questioning everything: labeling laws allow any food with 0.5 grams or less of an ingredient to claim “0 grams” or “[insert ingredient] free” on the label. Surprise – sugar free candy, cookies, and ice cream aren’t carb free or calorie free. Foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be labeled trans fat free or say zero grams, but if you eat that food frequently, the trans fat can build up to be much more than zero grams. The only way to tell is a food is really free of something is to check the ingredients list.

While these are a great jumping off point, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reading nutrition labels. Ultimately, it’s worth doing research to find out what ingredients and nutrients make the most difference for your diet and health condition, and pay special attention to those items on nutrition labels the next time you’re wandering the aisles of the  grocery store.

supermarket grocery shopping nutrition label facts

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5 Foods That Grow in Funky Ways

The produce we buy is so beautifully presented in the grocery store, but where does it come from? We decided to explore the growing process of some of our favorite fruits and veggies and couldn’t believe what we found!


Peanuts: The peanut plant is awesome because it flowers above ground but the peanuts grow below ground, surprising, right? Each plant produces 25-50 peanuts.



Cocoa: Does chocolate grow on trees? It sure does! Cocoa, the bean used to make chocolate is a bright pod grown only in tropical climates.



Kiwis: Fun facts… Kiwifruit grows on a vine, is named after the fuzzy kiwi bird and a male plant can pollinate up to eight female plants. Daaaang!



Pineapples: Thought they came from a tree? Wrong! Pineapples grow on a plant out of the ground, take three years to mature and don’t continue to ripen like most fruits once harvested, so eat ‘em quick!


AsaparagusAsparagus: Asparagus grows straight out of the ground and looks kind of bizarre! The majority of asparagus is grown in only three states and takes about three years from initial crown planting to harvest the full crop.


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10 High Protein Snacks to Make in Under 10 Minutes

Whether you’re fueling up for your next workout, or staying energized for that 3 pm meeting with your boss, high protein snacks are a tasty way to keep going.

Let’s face it, finding the perfect snack that combines high nutritional value, protein and healthy fats to fuel your day is like finding a unicorn! Check out these ten quick and easy snacks to get you through your workout, meeting or 3 PM slump:

  • Protein Power Balls: These are super easy to prep on Sunday for the week ahead. Combine nut butter, oats, raw honey and cocoa nibs and roll into balls. Done!
  • Turkey roll-up: Gluten free and super yummy! 2 slices deli turkey rolled up with one slice organic cheese and one slice tomato.
  • Yogurt Parfait: Throwback to the days of TCBY. Layer full-fat organic greek yogurt with fruits, nuts, seeds and chia in a clear jar for a quick and healthy pick-me up!

PurpleCornCerealYogurtParfait healthy protein snacks

  • Ants on a log: A true classic. Simply smooth your favorite nut butter onto celery sticks and add raisins and a shake of Breakfast Toppers for an added crunch.
  • Cheesy Kale Chips: Farewell pringles! When you need that salty crunch, bake some kale and sprinkle on nutritional yeast or curry powder.
  • Mini Avocado Toast: You can’t go wrong here. Avocado (sliced or mashed), toasted whole grain bread, sliced radish, topped with an egg. Perfection!AvocadoEggToastBreakfast healthy protein snacks
  • Hipster Hummus: Add two spoonfuls of hummus to a mason jar from last year’s wedding season, and then throw in carrot, cucumber and celery sticks.
  • Homemade Trail Mix: Shake up your own trail mix with protein-packed nuts and seeds, fiber-filled cereal and dried fruit, and maybe even a little chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth.

trail mix healthy protein snacks

  • Cheese Platter To Go: One handful nuts, four slices raw sharp cheddar, a bunch of grapes and gluten free crackers = snack magic.
  • PBB Smoothie: For a sweet treat, combine bananas, organic raw peanut butter, hemp seeds, 1 cup almond milk and ice cubes in a blender. Go!

What’s your favorite healthy snack? Share in the comments!

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What is stoneground whole wheat?

stoneground whole wheat grain kernel healthy benefits nutrition refined

What is whole wheat?

There’s a whole lot of confusion around the names “whole grain” and “whole wheat”, and these names can even be misleading. For something we eat so much of every day, we think it’s important to understand what exactly we are putting into our bodies.

Whole wheat is a type of whole grain, meaning that it contains all essential parts of the original kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm. For a food product to be considered whole grain, the FDA says it only needs to contain 51 percent of whole grains by weight. That means that the other 49 percent could be refined bleached flour, and the product could still be labeled as “whole wheat”!

Even the whole grains that make up the 51 percent might not be completely whole. They could be – and often are – reconstituted in standard milling processes, meaning the wheat kernel is separated into its three parts and pieced back together. The FDA allows for grain to be milled and separated this way, as long as the three are later mixed in proportions similar to the intact whole grain. Compared with intact grains, processed whole grains often have lower fiber and nutrient levels – not to mention less flavor!

So when shopping for whole wheat products, look for labels that say “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” to get the most gain from your grain.

stoneground whole wheat grain healthy benefits nutrition refined

What does it mean when a grain has been refined?

Refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ, as well as their nutrients. Without the bran and germ, about 25 percent of a grain’s protein is lost and at least 17 key nutrients are significantly reduced. Processors add back some vitamins and minerals to make enriched flour, but whole grains are still healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.

stoneground whole wheat grain healthy benefits nutrition refined

Why stoneground?

The way wheat is processed determines how nutritious it is, and in general, more processed foods are less healthy. Compared to refined or even whole wheat flour, 100% stoneground whole wheat has more nutrients and more taste. The stoneground way of milling wheat keeps the entire grain intact, preserving the integrity of the whole grain. No reconstitution, or separation of the wheat kernel, is involved. Nothing is added, nothing is removed. 

Stonegrinding wheat has been traced back to the third century B.C., and even though most stoneground flour produced today isn’t actually rubbed against stone, the nutritional and flavor benefits over wheat processed through steel rollers are still widely recognized.

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Purple Corn: The Nutritional Powerhouse You’ve Never Seen

purple corn organic nutrition benefits healthy

Walk into the grocery store and you’re surrounded by corn-filled products—from the usual chips and tortillas to the less obvious—toothpaste, milk, sodas and the countless other products full of high-fructose corn syrup.
We’ve become accustomed to the many unhealthy uses of white and yellow corn, but hear very little about some of the less popular varieties—particularly purple corn—and its nutritional benefits.

From the vibrant color to the unique taste, texture, and history, we quickly fell in love with Farmer Scott Johnson’s purple corn in Dakota County, Minnesota. His lavender fields stretch as far as you can see, full of organic, non-gmo purple corn that has descended from an ancient Inca variety.

Beyond its stunning appearance, we learned that purple corn is packed with more protein, fiber, and antioxidants than modern yellow corn.

Farmer Scott works closely with Suntava—the first company to grow, promote and market purple corn in North America. Suntava carefully selects a small group of dedicated farmers like Scott to help ensure the quality, purity, and ongoing nutritional value of purple corn.

We caught up with Terry Howell who oversees marketing and sales for Suntava, to find out more about Suntava’s “amaizing” food.


Q: Most people think “yellow” when they think about corn. Can you tell us a little bit about purple corn?

A: Purple corn is definitely something most consumers here in the US and Canada have never seen before. But if you travel to regions of South America, especially Peru, you find that purple corn is a mainstay of their diet. For hundreds of years Peruvians have been making a drink called Chicha Morada from the purple corn.

Today you don’t need to travel to Peru to enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits of purple corn. Suntava has been working diligently to grow our high antioxidant purple corn in various areas of the US- including Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, California and Pennsylvania. We plan to expand our growing areas in the years to come.

Q: What are some of the health benefits of purple corn?

A: In nature, purple colored foods and plants are a sign that they are rich in health-promoting anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are what gives these foods, flowers, and other plants their purple, blue, and sometimes red coloring. Common anthocyanin-rich foods would be blueberries, blackberries, and purple grapes.

Purple corn is not only beautiful to look at – it’s really good for you. In addition to giving these plants their beautiful purple color, the anthocyanins they contain provide a host of health benefits including providing a powerful dose of antioxidant protection.

Ounce for ounce purple corn delivers twice the antioxidants as blueberries.

Q: What other foods, besides cereal, is purple corn used for?purple corn organic nutrition benefits healthy chicha morrada peruvian food

A: You can find purple corn in snacks such as tortilla chips and popped chips, artisan breads and other baked goods, granola, craft beer, craft bourbon, salsa, frozen vegetable medleys, and salads.

Here in the US you will find Chicha Morada being served in most Peruvian restaurants. The taste is very unique and very refreshing – it does not taste at all like corn. Peruvians also make a breakfast pudding they call mazamorra morada.

What other colors does corn come in?

A: White and yellow are the two main colors we see. I think everyone is also aware of blue corn – think blue corn tortilla chips. Blue corn and purple corn corn might be kissing cousins but purple corn gets the nod in terms of being a nutritional powerhouse. Both blue and purple corn contain anthocyanins but purple corn contains 4 times more. I have also seen a crimson red corn and a very bright orange corn, and the typical Native American multi-colored corn we use as decorations during purple corn flakes organic milk breakfastHalloween.

: How did Suntava get involved with Back to the Roots?

A: We at Suntava have been very active in our efforts to tell the food industry and consumers about purple corn and its health promoting potential. Purple corn fit well with what Back To The Roots is all about…keeping foods simple and healthy.


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