Guest Post: Which Plant-Based Milks Are Best?

Our thanks to the office of St. Louis biological dentist Dr. Michael Rehme for letting us share this post from their blog. The original is here.

Cow’s milk is a complete food, at least for baby cows. It has a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It also contains compounds that boost the immune system.

soy beans and milkBut not everyone can drink cow’s milk – or any animal milk at all. Some have allergic reactions to it. (Up to 3.5% of children today have milk allergies, and while some eventually outgrow the allergy, others do not.) Some are lactose intolerant – including 80% of African-Americans and closer to 100% in Native American and East Asian populations. Yet others are vegan, do not like the taste, or avoid cow’s milk for other personal reasons.

Hence, the increasing popularity of plant-based milks. These are made by grinding various beans, nuts, or grains, then adding water and often flavors and additional nutrients.

But how do these compare to cow’s milk nutritionally? That was the focus of a study recently published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology. Four of the most common plant-based milks were considered: soy, rice, coconut, and almond.

Of these, soy was found to pack the biggest nutritional punch, with the best balance of proteins, carbs, and fats. Soy milk also contains cancer-fighting substances known as isoflavones.

Unfortunately, it also contains anti-nutrients that interfere with nutrient intake and absorption. Many also just don’t like its flavor.

Coconut and almond milk are low in both carbs and calories. Most of those calories come from fats known to benefit heart health. Neither is a great source of protein, however. Almond milk has a little, while coconut milk effectively has none. (There are also concerns that the ramped up production required by the ongoing almond craze is less than environmentally friendly.)

Rice milk was found to be the most unbalanced of the four. It’s very high in carbohydrates, containing more than twice as many as cow’s milk, and very low in both proteins and fats. Still, researchers suggested it may be a good option for those allergic to soy and nut-based milks.

But these are hardly the only plant-based milks out there. Other, newer options include oat, hemp, hazelnut, and macadamia nut milks. Like the others, each of these has its nutritional strengths and limitations.

Oat milk, for instance, is low in protein but high in healthy fiber, while hazelnut milk is nutritionally similar to almond milk but richer in the B vitamins and vitamin E.

Macadamia milk might seem less than ideal, with more fat and less protein than most nut-based milks. Yet the fat is almost all monounsaturated, which may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Hemp milk has much to recommend it. It has four times the omega fatty acids as soy milk and provides 10 essential amino acids.

One point that must be stressed is that these plant-based milks are not for very young children and especially not for babies. It is essential that babies be fed either breast milk or a complete infant formula. No plant-based milk can provide all the nutrients required for infant development.

Another key point: So long as you get your calcium and other nutrients somewhere, it’s not essential for adults to drink milk. Until very recently in human history, adults drank water and got all their nutrients from their other foods. This is still true in many lactose intolerant populations.

Nonetheless, if you choose to drink milk, what is the best milk for you? Talk with your integrative healthcare providers, read labels while shopping, and keep in mind your individual health needs. There’s no shortage of options for those who want to replace cow’s milk with a plant-derived alternative.

Ready to Start Brewing Your Own Probiotic Drinks at Home?

Kombucha Kefir & Beyond book coverRecently, we were given a copy of a book called Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond, which promised to be “A Fun and Flavorful Guide to Fermenting Your Own Probiotic Beverages at Home.”

We’re happy to say that it lived up to its word, with authors Raquel Guajardo and Alex Lewin bringing a refreshing perspective (and a bunch of new recipes!) to the world of probiotics.

Raised in an industrial town in northern Mexico, Guajardo brings a background to the recipes that adds a ton of variety to fermenting beyond the popular kombucha. This combined with Lewin’s curiosity about the holistic health benefits of probiotics result in a wealth of informative material, partnered with new recipes and great, simple ways to incorporate probiotics into each day.

As we’ve noted before, fermented foods like kombucha and yogurt are a great way to consume priobiotics. The helpful microbes in such foods help defend against disease, balancing the gut so the rest of our body, mouth included, can function at its best.

The authors spend a good amount of time covering the importance of probiotics and their impact on our health. They also explore the very definition of “health” and how it seems to have gone missing in what we call our “healthcare system” today.

They also highlights the importance of eating real foods – foods close in form to how they occur in nature, processed in the home kitchen, with trace compounds intact. This is and always has been one of our pillars of good nutrition.

making kombuchaBut if you’re wanting to skip the preliminaries and just learn how to make these foods, you can jump ahead to page 47. That’s where the authors get down to business about the few simple kitchen tools you’ll need, information on jarring, and simple tips.

The recipes will make you want to be invited to a dinner party at one of the author’s houses, starting with some down and dirty five-minute recipes. So often, healthy eating and drinking can feel overwhelming and complicated. Easy five-minute recipes like the Salty Fermented Lemonade or Limeade will have you more than ready for the warmer days ahead this year! Just add preserved lemons or limes to sparkling water with some crushed ice, fresh mint and raw honey you have a delicious, refreshing, and healthful drink.

The variety of the other recipes included in the book is really quite remarkable – from kombucha coffee to vegetable drinks like Beet Kvass all the way to brines and beers. One whole section is dedicated to Mexican fermented drinks like pulque (made from the sap of the maguey and referred to as “the drink of the Gods”) and colonche (made from prickly pear).

And that’s just the beginning. The fermented cocktails will have you daydreaming of your next cocktail party.

However, one key thing to consider any time you make fermented drinks – or buy them, for that matter – is the sugar content and the carbonation. The latter can erode tooth enamel, leaving teeth more vulnerable to decay. Sugar, of course, is the favored food of the microbes involved in the decay process. The two together are a real double-whammy.

We recommend going with the least carbonation and sugar. (Maybe it’s a good thing that home brewing can be so tricky that drinks sometimes fall a little flat!)

Overall, this is a great book for beginners to learn more about the process of fermenting and how to easily incorporate probiotics into every day with great recipes.

Helping Kids Learn to Eat Healthy in a Food Environment That’s Anything But

No matter where you go or what you do – turn on the TV, log into email, wait for a movie to start, step inside just about any kind of a store – you’re apt to be bombarded with marketing for unhealthy food products.

One of the primary targets? Our kids.

kids watching screenAs we noted last week, kids are highly influenced to eat foods they see marketed on TV, one of many factors contributing to childhood obesity. Now, new research in Pediatrics shows how that trend goes for big screen offerings, as well.

For the study, 31 G- and PG-rated films from 2012 to 2015 were evaluated for their “obesity-promoting content and weight-stigmatizing messages.” The raters documented how frequently the content included eating or negative messages around weight.

Let’s just say the answer was “often.”

All 31 movies included obesity-promoting content; most common were unhealthy foods (87% of movies, 42% of segments), exaggerated portion sizes (71%, 29%), screen use (68%, 38%), and sugar-sweetened beverages (61%, 24%). Weight-based stigma, such as a verbal insult about body size or weight, was observed in 84% of movies and 30% of segments.

So on the one hand, you have depictions that suggest behaviors that contribute to weight gain, and on the other, weight gain is scorned. Talk about mixed signals!

Other research suggests that kids’ eating behavior may be directly affected by depictions in film. One recent study of product placement in films found that

branding and obesogenic messaging in children’s movies influenced some choices that children made about snack foods immediately following viewing, especially food with greatest exposure time in the film.

While such studies acknowledge that there’s more to learn about the long-term effects of this psychological game, it’s hard to see much good come of this, just reinforcement of the unhealthy eating patterns so predominant in our culture.

That’s why it’s all the more crucial that we provide more healthful models for our kiddos to follow. For just as kids may mimic what they see in the media, so they may just as well follow the lead of their parents and caregivers.

One of the main reasons parents turn to drive-thru, carryout, or frozen meals is simple convenience. We’re all busy. Our kids are busy. Pre-made meals can seem to save the day – but only if we’re thinking in the short term.

Consider the long-term inconveniences of the chronic health problems that arise from diet – oral and systemic alike – and the short term benefits shrink.

Fortunately, with a little planning and prep, healthful eating – real food you make at home from whole foods combined by human hands – can become just as convenient. Consider incorporating some of the following practices into your routine:

  1. No time to grocery shop? Many stores have started offering home delivery again or will bag the food and have it available for pickup. This can be a huge timesaver. Check with your local stores to see if they offer this service.

  2. Meal prep on days off. If there are one or two days during the week with fewer activities, try to spend a little time prepping veggies or marinating proteins. One of the biggest time-sucks is prepping veggies (some of the most important ingredients you can use). Chopping, dicing or marinating on the weekend can make for some easy cooking on the weeknights.

  3. When cooking, cook a little extra. Consider doubling recipes to have an entire meal ready for another night.

  4. Consider a pressure cooker to easily turn vegetables and protein into a quick soup. You can even bake potatoes or hard boil eggs in pressure cookers, in a fraction of the time.

  5. Conversely, consider a slow-cooker that you can start early then effectively ignore until meal time.

  6. Some restaurants are better than others. When you really do want someone else to do the cooking, consider restaurants that might include locally sourced foods or at least feature foods that are organic and sustainably raised. You may even find farm-to-table options that could be both healthy and educational for the family.

Even starting out by giving up one or two days of fast food can make a huge difference. And gradually, you may find that this becomes easier to incorporate into your every day routine (and easier on your wallet).

Our Sugar-Saturated Environment (and What You Can Do About It)

white sugarWith all we know today about the harmful effects of sugar, why are we still drawn to it like, well, kids in a candy store?

Sure, as many have pointed out, we seem to be hardwired to like sweet flavors. This fact is easily exploited by the makers – and, importantly, marketers – of processed food products.

One way of doing it? Spin the science.

As the Chicago Tribune reported late last year, research proving the harmful effects of sugar – including its contribution to heart disease and cancer – has existed for decades. Why haven’t more people heard about it? Because it was never made public.

Early results in August 1970 indicated that rats fed a high-sugar diet experienced an increase in blood levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that contributes to cholesterol.

Rats fed loads of sugar also appeared to have elevated levels of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme previously associated with bladder cancer in humans, the researchers said.

Months after receiving these results, the International Sugar Research Foundation failed to approve an additional 12 weeks of funding that the Birmingham researchers needed to complete their work, according to the authors behind the new investigation.

Notably, the team of UCSF researchers who exposed this cover-up, headed by Stanton Glanz, is the same team who exposed the tobacco industry’s manipulative marketing efforts. And what they’ve shown so far suggests that the sugar biz is very much operating by Big Tobacco’s playbook.

Corporations will seemingly do most anything to keep their profits up.

In fact, the sugar industry even went as far as to manipulate dental research on the relationship between sugar and caries (tooth decay). As the Glanz team demonstrated in an earlier paper, industry actually helped set the research agenda for the National Institute of Dental Research.

Industry tactics included the following: funding research in collaboration with allied food industries on enzymes to break up dental plaque and a vaccine against tooth decay with questionable potential for widespread application, cultivation of relationships with the NIDR leadership, consulting of members on an NIDR expert panel, and submission of a report to the NIDR that became the foundation of the first request for proposals issued for the NCP. Seventy-eight percent of the sugar industry submission was incorporated into the NIDR’s call for research applications. Research that could have been harmful to sugar industry interests was omitted from priorities identified at the launch of the NCP. [emphasis added]

Addressing the primary cause of decay – too much sugar – was deemed unrealistic and impractical.

And it certainly can seem that way when you recognize how much sugar infuses our food supply or look at more obvious types of marketing, especially that targeting kids. Ads for sweet soft drinks, candy, breakfast cereals, and other sugar bombs can be found everywhere on TV, online, in video games, and more.

According to a 2017 study in Appetite, this marketing is directly related to increased consumption.

The study evaluated sugary cereal consumption for preschoolers in southern New Hampshire who saw commercials for these products on TV. (On TV, high sugar breakfast cereals, or SBCs, are the single most marketed product to kids.) Over 500 families participated. Both TV viewing and SBC consumption were documented.

In the past week, 56.9% of children ate SBCs advertised on kids’ channels. Overall, 40.6% of children were exposed to child-targeted SBC TV ads in the past week.

For every 10 SBC ads seen in the previous week, consumption rose 14%.

Suffice it to say, it’s up to us to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, despite the sugar-loaded culture around us. That can start by being a good role model and cutting back our own sugar intake.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Read labels. Just because something is marketed as organic or “healthy” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have indulgent ingredients. Sugars are one of the highest ingredients in protein bars or shakes. And if you’re grabbing a “healthy” drink such as almond milk or kombucha, choose one with little or no sugar.

  • Sweeten your water or tea with a splash of natural fruit juice rather than sugar or syrup.

  • Try some baking alternatives with applesauce instead of sugar.

  • Remember that carbs are digested as sugar. Try replacing pasta with vegetables like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini.

  • Moderation! Everything adds up. Small changes can make a big impact over time. And many, many small indulgences can add up over time just as well (if not more easily).

  • If quitting sugar cold turkey doesn’t work for you, reduce gradually. This is better than no change at all.

Image by Umberto Salvagnin

How to Handle Those Holiday Carbs!

holiday feastHolidays are filled with foods that you might normally try to avoid.

Dining room tables are covered with potatoes, stuffing, glazed vegetables and meats, marshmallow-topped casseroles, dumplings, breads, and more. Appetizer trays feature crackers and crostini and fried treats of all kinds. Fudge and candy plates abound. You may have invites already for holiday baking or cookie parties.

And of course, there are the sweet drinks to wash it all down, from hot chocolate to egg nog and holiday cocktails, sodas to holiday brews.

So it’s probably no surprise that we wind up consuming anywhere from 3000 to 4500 calories just on a single holiday feast.

If you’re looking to manage your carb intake over the holidays, you’re not alone. Of course, it may not be possible to remove them entirely – or even desirable, considering the strong ties between holiday foods and traditions.

Even so, replacing some standard sides with slightly healthier versions or subbing a few key ingredients can really make a difference. Here are 7 alternatives to help get you thinking creatively about your meals this holiday season:

  1. Consider an alternative eggnog like this from So Delicious – less than half the calories and a fraction of the carbs. Of course, it still contains some sugar. If you want to go sugar-free, there are great recipes online such as this one, which uses stevia in place of the sugar.

  2. Mix in some gluten-free or vegan recipes with some of your standards. You’ll find some recipes to get you started here and here.

  3. Don’t forget the salad! Salads can be very pretty with colorful vegetables, a little dried fruit, and some nuts or feta cheese.

  4. Consider soups thickened and made creamier with pureed vegetables such as carrots or squash.

  5. Try a side dish heavier in vegetables with less (or no) pasta, like this Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Casserole, for instance.

  6. Replace traditional noodles with spaghetti squash or spiralized vegetables.

  7. Sweet potato casserole, mixed with a little whole fat coconut milk and cinnamon, can be a great replacement for the standard pumpkin pie (and tastes very similar!).

And if you want to stick with tradition and carb out as you please?

Maybe think about a fitness or nutrition challenge with a few friends or coworkers after the season has passed. Or think about signing up for a holiday fun run. Getting in a quick 5K or one-mile run with your family or friends could be the start of a new tradition and a great way to introduce a balance of healthy living with holiday indulgence.

Image by Jessica Spengler

Some Refreshing News about America’s Soda Habit

Here’s some refreshing news about Americans and soda: We’re finally drinking less of the stuff.

soda can topTen years ago, on any given day, over 61% of adults and nearly 80% of kids drank such beverages, none of which are particularly friendly to teeth (not to mention the rest of you).

According to new research in the journal Obesity, in 2014, just 50% of adults and 60.7% of children drank them.

Of course, that still leaves a lot of us drinking a lot of sugar. Still, such a significant reduction is an important step forward.

The study monitored data from 18,600 children and over 27,652 adults across 10 years of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

This overall decline in both beverage and [sugar-sweetened beverage] consumption is consistent with previous literature, suggesting a recent “turning point” toward lower energy intake in the US diet, potentially attributable to widespread discussion and media coverage of the role of certain foods (e.g., SSBs) in promoting obesity, changes to food allowances within the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, improvements to school feeding programs, and product reformulations by food manufacturers and retailers.

On the downside, consumption rates remain highest among black, Mexican American, and non-Mexican Hispanic teens – all groups at high risk of obesity and diabetes.

On the upside, the study also found that fruit juice consumption is down, as well. As we’ve noted before, fruit juice is essentially concentrated sugar and a major cause of tooth decay among young children in particular.

boy getting drink of waterWhat kids are drinking more of is what we all should be drinking more of: water.

Among children, the prevalence of 100% juice consumption declined significantly among 12- to 19-year-olds, water increased significantly across all age groups, and no significant changes were seen for coffee and tea, milk, or diet beverage consumption for any age group.

And this may not be a short term trend. Earlier this year, a major trade publication noted that soda sales have been declining for twelve years and counting.

The per capita consumption of soda drinks, including energy drinks, fell to about 642 8-ounce servings last year, the lowest level since 1985, when the Beverage Digest began tracking consumption trends….

Despite the fact that two of the biggest of the soda companies suspiciously fund 96 US health groups – including the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health – more people are seeing this as little more than an attempt to influence public health policy and maintain profits. Consumer education has been a big help, as have soda taxes, with the money going to fund various health programs.

In 2015, Berkeley, California introduced a soda tax after years of battling the industry. They’ve now seen a drop in sales by nearly 10% – and a spike in water sales, as well.

One year following implementation of the nation’s first large SSB tax, prices of SSBs increased in many, but not all, settings, SSB sales declined, and sales of untaxed beverages (especially water) and overall study beverages rose in Berkeley; overall consumer spending per transaction in the stores studied did not rise. Price increases for SSBs in two distinct data sources, their timing, and the patterns of change in taxed and untaxed beverage sales suggest that the observed changes may be attributable to the tax.

That said, water doesn’t always satisfy the urge for a sweet soft drink, especially if you’re going through a detox by gradually reducing your sugar intake. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  • Drink tea – hot or cold. Many spice teas have an inherent sweetness, as do some herb teas such as ginger lemon.
  • Splash a bit of lemon or lime into your water.
  • Infuse your own water with fruit, herbs, or vegetables. Here are a few ideas.
  • Make a veg-centric smoothie. Here are some tips for making sure yours is balanced and not a sugar-bomb.
  • Make your own fresh juice with fresh vegetables and fruit. Again, balance is key. Think green.

Bottom image by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

How Do You Know When “Organic” Is Really Organic?

organic label with question markAs we mentioned last time, trust is a big issue when it comes to food labeled “organic.” When people don’t trust it, they don’t buy it.

But matters of trust can also be confounded by our own expectations – and lots of people have different, not always correct, ideas about what “organic” actually means.

According to the USDA,

Organic crops are raised without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Animals raised on an organic operation must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors. They are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. The NOP regulations prohibit the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge in organic production and handling.

But even this doesn’t necessarily mean “all natural.” As you may already know, there are plenty of approved synthetic substances that can be used in the production of crops or animal products and still allow a food to be called “organic.”

Similarly, a processed food can still get the USDA organic seal even if some ingredients – up to 5% – are non-organic.

But these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to trust.

With popularity and demand, organic food production has grown beyond our current domestic capabilities. More food is being imported, yet as news has shown through the last several months, regulation may be more than a little bit lacking.

Earlier this year, for instance, shipments of corn and soybeans from Turkey wound up labeled as “organic” – and thus, worth about $4 million more than they should have been – even though the crops had been grown conventionally. And while “USDA officials say that their system for guarding against fraud is robust,” reported the Washington Post, the facts suggest otherwise.

Under USDA rules, a company importing an organic product must verify that it has come from a supplier that has a “USDA Organic” certificate. It must keep receipts and invoices. But it need not trace the product back to the farm. Some importers, aware of the possibility of fraud, request extra documentation. But others do not.

Regardless of where organics come from, critics say, the system suffers from multiple weaknesses in enforcement: Farmers hire their own inspection companies; most inspections are announced days or weeks in advance and lack the element of surprise; and testing for pesticides is the exception rather than the rule.

These vulnerabilities are magnified with imported products, which often involve more middlemen, each of whom could profit by relabeling conventional goods as “organic.” The temptation could be substantial, too: Products with a “USDA Organic” label routinely sell for twice the price of their conventional counterparts.

In recent years, even as the amount of organic corn and soybeans imported to the United States has more than tripled, the USDA has not issued any major sanctions for the import of fraudulent grain, U.S. farmers said.

“The U.S. market is the easiest for potentially fraudulent organic products to penetrate because the chances of getting caught here are not very high,” said John Bobbe, executive director of the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing, or OFARM, a farmer cooperative. In Europe and Canada, he said, import rules for organics are much stricter.

Since the news broke, an industry group, the Organic Trade Association, has said it will create an anti-fraud task force. US organic farmers remain skeptical, even “amused” by the thought.

And meantime, a USDA audit has revealed further issues. As Civil Eats recently reported,

The resounding issue is a lack of transparency. First, auditors found that the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which houses the NOP, did not clearly share with stakeholders its methodology for determining how other countries’ organic standards compared to the USDA’s. And the on-site audits meant to ensure the efficacy of other countries’ certification practices were not conducted in a timely way, auditors found.

In addition, once products reached the U.S. border, auditors found that the agency did not provide reasonable assurance that inspectors reviewed the required documents proving organic practices at U.S. ports of entry. Finally, auditors also found that millions of pounds of organic products were sometimes fumigated with conventional pesticides to prevent invasive pests from entering the country, but still labeled and sold the food as organic.

“While most organic food is safe, and dramatically reduces your exposure to pesticides, the report reveals serious regulatory gaps that allow a few bad actors to ship sham ‘organic’ products to the U.S.,” explained Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety. “The USDA must up its game to block these imports, both to protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for American organic farmers.”

So what can we do? Is there any way to make sure that the organic food you buy is really organic?

The only sure way right now is to start your own garden. Then you control what’s put in, on, and around your food. It doesn’t need to be huge. Start small with just a simple tomato plant, say, or a few peppers, both of which can be very fruitful with pretty low maintenance. As your green thumb develops, you can always expand with more plants.

You can also limit the number of processed products you buy, centering your diet on whole food rather than collections of ingredients. It’s simpler to source single or minimally processed products than pre-made ones.

If you support your local community gardens, farmers markets, and CSAs, you can find out as much as you want to know about how the foods were produced. You can ask the growers directly – something impossible to do at a big box store or even your local grocery store.

That said, more and more supermarkets now are starting to feature more local, organic produce, at least. If that’s not an option, at least seek domestic products, which are more regulated for now.

And if money is a concern, there really are ways to eat organic on a budget. Here are some tips to get you started.

Image via Food Renegade

The Magic of Food Labeling

grocery storeShop in a grocery store, and most of what you see has been processed to one degree or another.

Yes, strictly speaking, even things like cleaning, sorting, and bagging organic fruit or veg count as processing.

In essence, “processing” is merely about turning food in its natural form into a product for consumption. Such products run the gamut from minimally- to hyper-processed, with foods tending to lose more of their nutritional value the more processed they are.

Regardless of the degree of processing, something funny happens when food companies slap labels onto their products: Consumer perceptions can change.

According to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), a front group for the food and beverage industries, many consumers base their opinions of what they think is “processed” only if the item seems like it was altered in some way.

And if you label it as “organic,” the product may seem even less processed.

Only three out of fourteen carrot-based products listed were considered “processed” by over half of respondents…Interestingly, consumers were only half as likely to categorize organic bagged baby carrots (7%) as processed compared to conventional bagged baby carrots (14%).

A recent study in Appetite likewise found that the “organic” label can indeed lead consumers to attribute qualities to a processed food quality that may or may not actually be true.

Overall, processed organic (vs. conventional) foods were perceived as tastier, more healthful (Study 1) or equally healthful (Study 2), but also as more caloric.

“Uncovering the specific conditions in which food claims bias consumer’s perceptions and behavior,” note the authors, “may have important implications for marketing, health and public-policy related fields.”

Of course, we have good reasons for favoring organics. As a study in Procedia Economics and Finance noted,

the reasons advocated by the consumers for buying organic food products are varied and primarily the motivations behind their decision to purchase include concerns for environment, health concern and lifestyle, food product quality and their subjective norms. Consumer behaviour involves the psychological processes that consumers go through in recognizing needs, finding ways to solve these needs; collect and interpret information; make plans and implement these plans, making purchase decisions and post-purchase behaviour.

But our willingness to buy and our purchases making a difference hangs on another important thing: trust. This was demonstrated nicely by a 2015 Thai study in the Journal of Business Ethics. Through two focus groups and 10 interviews, as well as a related intercept study, its authors found that lack of trust in the labeling and control procedures of organic food in Thailand have resulted in consumers being much less likely to buy organic.

Mistrust in the control system and in the authenticity of food sold as organic has a significant negative impact on self-reported buying behavior. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.

Next week, we’ll look further at the issue of organics labeling and how you can make sure you’re getting the quality you pay for.

A Look Back at…Nitric Oxide

Originally posted September 29, 2016

nitric oxide moleculeUnlike nitrous oxide, a.k.a. “laughing gas,” nitric oxide it is no laughing matter. Rather, it’s a signaling molecule that our body produces to help the trillions of cells in our body communicate with each other.

Nitric oxide is made by the body’s blood vessel’s lining. When this lining – the endothelium – senses healthy conditions, such as when you exercise, it releases more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, increases blood flow, and decreases plaque and blood clotting.

A healthy release of nitric oxide has been reported to

  • Help memory and behavior.
  • Support the immune system’s fight against pathogenic bacteria and defend against tumors.
  • Regulate blood pressure.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Increase endurance and strength.
  • Aid digestion.

We get plenty of nitric oxide when we’re young, but production falls later in life. Production also drops off when the endothelium senses less than healthy factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and increased stress levels. Free radical damage, inactivity, and poor dietary choices likewise have a negative effect nitric oxide release.

Happily, there are ways to increase nitric oxide and reap its benefits.

  1. Exercise
    When you exercise your muscles require more oxygen, which is supplied by the blood. As your heart pounds, your arteries release nitic oxide into the blood. This opens and relaxes the vessel walls and allows more blood to pass through.

  2. Diet
    Vegetables such beets, beet juice, celery, and dark leafy greens such as kale chard, arugula, and spinach are high in dietary nitrates and nitrites, both of which stimulate the production of nitric oxide. In addition, eating food with color increases the flavonoids in your diet. Flavonoids protect nitric oxide from free radical damage. Generally, it’s best to avoid a diet either too high in fat or carbohydrate. Both can inhibit nitric oxide production.

  3. Nitric oxide supplements
    Traditionally, supplementing for nitric oxide meant taking supplements containing L-arginine. But current research indicates that, as you age, L-arginine is less likely to prove effective.

    Enter new research out of the University of Texas Health Science Center, which has led to a proprietary, beetroot-based, nitric oxide formula that generates authentic nitric oxide while supporting the enzyme that makes nitric oxide in the body.

    The scientist at the helm of this form of supplementation is Dr. Nathan Bryan who co-authored The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution based on his research.

Whether you increase nitric oxide via exercise, diet, supplementation, or a combination of all three, tapping into this overlooked molecule’s power may well help you age with strength and vitality.

Changing the Narrative of Food

Healthy eating starts with whole food, real food, including lots of fresh produce. When you picture how it’s grown, you may imagine wide open spaces, fields spanning acres and acres.

But it can just as well happen on a much smaller scale, in urban and suburban areas alike. Think front yard gardens, rooftop and courtyard gardens, or any underutilized space. Many communities have unused or struggling properties that can be repurposed for flourishing community gardens.

In this TED Talk, Pam Warhurst describes how she and a group of others made it happen in her community of Todmorden in northern England, launching an initiative they came to call “Incredible Edible”:

Such programs are cropping up all over the world, including here in Arlington, where we have things like the Community Garden of UT Arlington and the Harvesting Hope Community Garden.

Consider supporting one of these or another community garden project. Volunteer or donate or buy from harvests put up for sale. Or follow Warhurst’s lead and create your own concept for an edible neighborhood landscape and make it a reality.

Already doing so? Share your experiences in the comments!