Algae: The Food of The Future?

Listen to the full episode.

Plant Based Diet | Show Notes | Interview With Catharine Arnston, Founder & CEO Of Energybits

It has been touted as the food of the future and the most nutrient dense food on the planet. Algae is a food that’s “a gift to us from mother nature”, says Catharine Arnston, Founder & CEO of Energybits, who is interviewed in this episode.

What is Algae?
The type of algae discussed in the podcast is a food crop grown in fresh water. It is not grown in the ocean. It has a high content of protein, vitamins and minerals and is a multi billion-dollar industry in Asia.

Macroalgae and microalgae are two subcategories of algae. Macroalgae is what you see washed up on shore such as seaweed, dulse and kelp. Microalgae can be found everywhere, in the ocean, rivers and pools but it’s toxic to humans. Of the all the strains of microalgae, two types of microalgae are grown as an agricultural crop: 1) Spirulina (blue-green algae); and 2) Chlorella (green algae).

Difference Between Spirulina and Chlorella
Spirulina is technically bacteria. It has a very high concentration of protein and, according to Catharine Arnston, is known for giving a person energy and focus. Declared by the United Nations as “the best food for the future” and recommended to governments in a 2008 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, spirulina has the potential to fulfill food security needs.

According to Arnston, spirulina is a complete protein. Spirulina also has B vitamins and essential fatty acids like omega-3 and GLA (gamma linolenic acid) and is high in iron, among many other nutritional benefits. According to Arnston who calls spirulina “efficient nutrition”, spirulina algae can satisfy hunger without carbs so people also use it for intermittent fasting.  

Chlorella is completely different than spirulina. One unique characteristics of chlorella is its high concentration of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is important at the cellular level for getting nutrients in and toxins out. (For more on this, listen to Alternative Food Network’s Doctors+ podcast episode 10 on The Role of Nutrition in Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Chronic Disease with Dr. Mel Litman.) What kind of toxins? Arnston mentions its use after nuclear disasters, chemotherapy and even to avoid a hangover after drinking too much alcohol.

A second interesting characteristic about chlorella is that its chemical composition is similar to that of hemoglobin. Arnston points out that in WWI, when blood for transfusions ran out, the injured were given liquid chlorophyll.

Chlorella also is a natural source of Vitamin K2 which is important for heart and bone health says Arnston. Dietary sources of vitamin K2 include eggs, meat and various cheeses, foods which are lacking in a vegan diet.

Arnston also mentions that chlorella has been used to promote gut health.

How is Microalgae Processed?
Most microalgae is grown in Asia. It is grown in ponds and takes 1-2 months to grow. Then it’s dried into a powder. Energybits presses the powder into tablets, which tablets are imported into the US and tested by a third party lab.

2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law in December 2018. It expanded federal support for algae agriculture, placing algae as one of the priorities for new crop development.

NASA’s Interest in Algae
Two of the reasons for NASA interest in algae are because of its nutritional density and oxygen generation according to Arnston.

Algae and COVID-19
Studies mentioned in the podcast:

  • University of Pittsburg algae nasal spray to prevent infection
  • Israel and Italy algae-based edible vaccine experiment
  • University of Western Ontario antibody test kit using algae

Who Should Not Consume Algae
According to Arnston, she has not heard of any allergies to spirulina. However, if someone is sensitive to vitamin K or beta-carotene, algae would not be appropriate.

Also, since chlorella pulls out toxins, Arnston did not know if chlorella identifies medication as a toxin. Therefore, Arnston recommends taking chlorella two hours before or after taking other medication. Arnston further says she’s “on the fence” about whether chlorella can treat auto-immune conditions despite it being an immune system builder.

Benefits of Algae if You’re Plant-Based
Of particular interest if you’re plant-based is that algae is a great source of omega-3’s, iron and chlorophyll. Arnston adds that today’s vegetables don’t contain the same nutrients as they once did so it’s difficult to get all the nutrients one needs with plants. Algae can be a great and easy source of nutrients.

Chlorella Detox
Since chlorella is a detoxifier, it is possible it could cause some short term distress according Arnston such as headaches, breakouts and stomach discomfort.

Algae for Immune Support
Algae provides great immune support, says Arnston. Algae has so many nutrients including zinc, vitamin A, B3, amino acids and chlorophyll that it makes it “easy to stay healthy”.

Future for Algae
We’re going to see it more and more in drinks and foods such as meat alternatives, soups, sauces and pasta. It’s even being used in food packaging. Unilever recently entered into a partnership with biotech startup Algenuity. They are exploring microalgae’s potential in food innovation. Algae represents an alternative source of protein which is key to feeding a growing population while reducing the impact on the environment.

Additional Resources
Microalgae: A potential alternative supplementation for humans https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213453018301435

Building Better Life Support Systems for Future Space Travel https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/photobioreactor-better-life-support

Inflammatory and Anti-Inflammatory Foods

June 14, 2020

Having produced podcasts for the last couple of years related to food and health, there is consistent mention by our distinguished podcast guests and medical professionals of the connection between inflammation and diet. Based on information from these interviews, here’s a summary of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods as mentioned in Episodes 5 and 8 of Alternative Food Network’s Doctors+ podcast series and the Inflammation-Food Connection podcast.

Inflammatory Foods

  • Dairy
  • Alcohol
  • Processed meats, red meat
  • Refined sugar
  • Trans fats, saturated fasts
  • Refined carbohydrates e.g. white rice, white bread, white flour
  • Browned or burnt foods

Anti-inflammatory Foods

  • Monounsaturated fats e.g. olives, olive oil, macadamia nuts
  • Omega 3 fatty acids e.g. wild/unfarmed fish, pumpkin seeds, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, algae products
  • Whole or cracked grains e.g. quinoa, sorghum, millet, amaranth, bulgur
  • Naturally high fiber foods e.g. fruits, vegetables (particularly dark leafy greens)
  • Avocado
  • Legumes e.g. beans, lentils
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Nuts
  • Dark chocolate
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric + black pepper
  • Green tea
  • Blueberries

Sources:
Doctors+ podcast series, Episode 8: Food and Mood (Part I)
Doctors+ podcast series, Episode 5: The Gut-Brain Axis
Inflammation-Food Connection Podcast

To Ghee or Not to Ghee – That is the Question, but What is the Right Answer?

By Anita Mehta

To Ghee or Not to Ghee – That is the Question, but What is the Right Answer?

If your focus is health, wellbeing and embracing a better quality of life, then you have likely already heard of GHEE and its numerous benefits.  Used in Indian cooking for thousands of years, it is simply a clarified form of butter, heated to the point that the milk and water solids have separated and then removed, making it ideal for those lactose intolerant. Ketogenic and paleo diet friendly, it has a rich, nutty and caramelized type of flavoring, requiring no refrigeration.  Ghee made from cow’s milk is the best and readily available in grocery stores.

With its high levels of vitamin A, D, E, K, and CLA, a known anti-carcinogen, ghee delivers powerful benefits. It has been shown to rejuvenate and revitalize the whole body – from boosting immunity, decreasing inflammation, contributing to heart health, improving vision and promoting healthy hair and skin.  If that isn’t enough to convince you – it can even support weight loss as its amino acids help increase lean body mass while reducing the size of fat cells.  Essentially ghee acts as an instant energy source and is not stored as fat.

Ghee can be easily incorporated in your daily routine, either by itself or in cooking. You can take 1 tsp on an empty stomach each morning or blend into your tea, coffee or smoothie.  Using a blender to mix in the ghee creates a smooth, rich consistency, but without the dairy.  Easily used in stir fry’s, soups or pasta- it has a high smoke point, making it a healthier replacement to oils with a lower smoke point.  When an oil is thoroughly heated, it begins to smoke, break down and become oxidized. Research has shown that consuming oil that has been oxidized may create free radicals within the body, increasing the risk for developing cancer.

With so much to offer, it would appear to be a super food, however it is still high in saturated fat and should be used in moderation ideally 1-2 tsp a day, enough to still reap its wonderful rewards.

Turmeric Latte

  • 1 cup milk (dairy, coconut, almond, soy)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp ghee
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)

Whisk milk, spices, honey, ghee, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.

Chocolate Fruit Dip 

Over low heat, stir together 1 tsp ghee, 1 tsp coconut oil, ½ tsp raw honey, and a handful of dark-chocolate chips until melted. 

References

What Is Ghee and What Are Its Benefits?
By Nicole Leatherman, Nutrition Writer and Editor
https://www.bijouxandbits.com/2017/01/golden-milk-recipe-turmeric-tea
https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/creative-ways-use-ghee
https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/ghee-better-than-butter
https://www.hindustantimes.com/fitness/ghee-for-weight-loss-nutrition-benefits-and-when-to-have-it/story-ufkPObq1I9NqOYqAZsnLWM.html
https://milkio.co.nz/ghee-smoke-point/

Anita embraces a variety of interests ranging from mentoring, travel & event planning, cooking, writing and volunteering.  Previously having worked in financial services, she now enjoys the freedom and versatility each day brings.

Why Every Podcaster Needs a Guest Release

By Esther Garfin

This is intended as general information, not legal advice, and does not establish a lawyer-client relationship. It is not a substitute for independent legal advice. Please consult a lawyer to address any specific legal issues.

To my fellow podcast creators and producers,

I’m the founder of Alternative Food Network (AFN) and producer of the AFN podcasts. I also have a professional background as an entertainment lawyer. I normally don’t write opinion pieces but I recently attended a podcast festival where I heard a podcast producer on a panel suggest to the audience that if you’re starting out as a podcaster and don’t have money to “legal up”, just borrow a Guest Release from a podcaster friend. That made me cringe.

I appreciate that obtaining legal services when you’re just starting out as a podcaster seems perhaps daunting and too costly of an undertaking. But, not having the appropriate legal documents from the beginning may very well lead to legal woes ahead. Every circumstance is different and “your friend’s” Release may not be appropriate for your situation. So, to help steer you in the right direction when it comes to Guest Releases for audio productions, I have answered some common questions in this blog. This isn’t legal advice from me to you. It’s just a suggestion for good business practices.

What is a Podcast Guest Release?

This Release is used by producers of podcasts to get permission from their guest to record and publish the guest’s voice in sound recordings in the producer’s production and wherever that production may be used and distributed.

Why should a Guest Release be used?

It protects both the producer and the guest. It grants certain rights to the producer which the producer requires in order to record and publish the podcast. It also provides clarity to the guest on how the recording will be used.

Having a signed Guest Release can avoid future headaches and legal troubles including:

  • a guest deciding they don’t like the podcast or the sound of their voice and asking you to remove the podcast;
  • a guest demanding that the podcast be edited in a certain way; or
  • a guest demanding payment when there was no agreement to pay.

What if the guest doesn’t sign the Release?

In my experience, this is a rare case. However, if it does happen, I say short term pain brings long term gain. In other words, if a mutually agreeable Release cannot be negotiated and signed, scrapping the guest may be the best decision as it can avoid a lot of wasted time, money and energy when things get heated down the road.

While a proper Guest Release isn’t the only document for the podcaster legal toolkit, at least it’s a start.

Esther Garfin is Alternative Food Network’s Founder and President. She is a podcast producer and also practiced entertainment law for 15+ years in Toronto, Canada.

Fermented Foods

All content or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Alternative Food Network Inc. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a reader based on the content of this site. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

Fermented foods have gained attention due to their possible health benefits, with more studies being conducted to determine their role in healthy diets. As discussed in an episode of AFN’s Doctors+ podcast series titled The Gut-Brain Axis , the following are examples of fermented foods:

  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Sourdough bread
  • Miso Soup
  • Tempeh
  • Pickles – make sure jar says “naturally fermented” or brined in water and salt instead of vinegar. Watch that salt intake though!
  • Sauerkraut – Again, be mindful of the salt.
  • Yogurt– look for “live and live cultures” on the packaging.

From Barely Surviving to Happily Thriving: Anorexia and My Relationship with Food

By Kenzie Osborne

Food – the one thing that is supposed to keep us alive is the one thing we’re convinced to avoid… Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Why does the media constantly encourage us to fear food, and to feel guilty when we fuel our bodies with calories? Why do big, corporate, supposedly “healthy” companies like Weight Watchers encourage us to count every darn “point” or calorie” that we consume? It’s like food has become an enemy to society – and in order to be “our best self” we must carefully monitor every little crumb we put into our body.

Even just thinking about the word “point” or “calorie” probably made a few of you cringe… For some reason, the amount of energy a food provides (a calorie) has been morphed into something so negative. To go one step further, in my opinion, this whole “point” system that has developed is completely ridiculous! Really? We’re giving “points” to food now? That’s like saying “three strikes and you’re suddenly unhealthy.” Just look around – low calorie this, low fat that, zero calorie this, negative calorie that! The messaging we hear is that the more energy a food has (or the more “points” it gets), the more reasons there are to avoid it. How does that make any sense? I guess it doesn’t matter if it makes logical sense. It only matters that society believes it.

Growing up, I was certainly no exception… Unfortunately, I believed the media and the hype, and I fell victim to an eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa. It all began with this irrational fear of calories. I started by avoiding “indulgent”, high calorie treats: cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, chips, etc. Then, I eliminated fatty foods: nuts, seeds, cheese, whole milk, most meats, etc. Next, I restricted carbohydrates (when the media jumped on the “low-carb” train): bread, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, etc. Lastly, I got rid of any food that was processed or prepared by someone else: anything in a box, anything from a restaurant, anything in packaging, etc. Pretty much all I was left with were a few leaves of lettuce… And if I was lucky, maybe a cherry tomato on top.

Of course, I can’t blame everything on the media and society. There were other factors – athletics and school. I was officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at age 16, but I had struggled with body insecurities since I was 10. Around this time, I was starting to participate in gymnastics competitions. I trained 5 days a week for at least 4 hours at a time (yup, it was a lot for a 10 year old!). I loved the sport, but I always hated being in my skin-tight gym suit. Our group of athletes would talk about how thin some of the girls were, and how big others were (yup, kids can be brutally honest, and not aware of the impact of their words). To make matters worse, our coaches always encouraged us to watch what we ate, and would scold us for having a cookie or a bag of chips – those were “bad” foods. Mind you, there was SOME truth to this… Having a bag of chips prior to a four-hour training session isn’t exactly the best fuel for your body. BUT, that isn’t to say you can never have a bag of chips or you can never indulge in an ooey gooey cookie! The problem is, no one ever really made this clear to us. Instead, coaches just scolded us for eating processed and high-calorie foods, and praised us for eating lower-calorie snacks! Little did they know, the coaches’ attitude towards high-calorie foods was making their athletes WEAKER and more insecure about their bodies.

In addition to the “food rules” from gymnastics, there were more “do’s and don’ts” coming from another source – elementary school. Each day, I’d head off to school with a lunch box filled with nutritious foods (props to mom and dad, killing it with the healthy foods!). Now, let’s just remember that kids have no filter, and they tend to say whatever is on their minds. I was always the healthy one (and there was truth to this –  I was active, and my parents were amazing at feeding me with healthy, wholesome foods). The problem was that I established my identity as an athlete, and as an athlete, I was supposed to be “the healthy one”. Therefore, when I hit high school (and was packing my own lunches), I wanted to keep the same image. To be honest, I liked being a fit and athletic girl at school. It was a good identity to have, and people seemed to treat me positively for it. The problem was that everyone expected me to ALWAYS eat healthily – and if I even had a bite of a cookie, people would gasp – you’re actually eating a cookie!? I hated being singled out, and I didn’t want the attention… Bye bye cookies.

Eventually, I had to make sure that everything I ate was 100% healthy (and couldn’t be challenged as “unhealthy” by anyone). I eliminated wayyy too many foods that I enjoyed (and that were healthy) simply because someone, somewhere said they were “bad”. I thought if I was supposed to be the healthy one, I definitely couldn’t be caught dead eating something that was considered to someone as a “bad” food. So I eliminated:

  • Bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, corn, bananas – too many carbs
  • Cheese, milk, whole yogurt – too many saturated fats
  • Red meat, eggs, any meat that wasn’t “extra lean” – too many fats, too much cholesterol
  • Nuts, seeds, oil, butter, cream cheese – too many fats, too many calories
  • Cookies, cheesecake, brownies, cupcakes – too many calories, too much sugar, too many fats
  • Condiments – too much salt, too much sugar
Now I was left with just a few options: low-calorie vegetables, low-fat cottage cheese, 0% Greek yogurt, extra lean chicken and oats. I’d developed a full blown eating disorder. The funny thing was, I knew what I was doing was unhealthy. I knew I was hurting my body. I knew my liver was breaking down. I knew my body was losing vitamins and minerals, and I knew I was getting close to “falling off the edge”. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but my eating disorder had grabbed hold of me, and I was no longer in control…

I referred to my eating disorder as “ED”. I thought of ED like another person – because he kind of was. He had different morals – he wanted to be thin regardless of my health status, he prioritized food over family (if there was food at a family event, he didn’t care, I wasn’t going), he lied (saying I was allergic to something or telling people I’d eaten when I hadn’t), and he was a straight up (bleep) (he made fun of me, put me down, discouraged me, and always ensured I was 100% miserable). He also had a VERY different agenda – to eat less and less and less (it was his way of feeling in control, and he LOVED to be in control).

ED knew EXACTLY how to control me. He knew my weaknesses and he knew how to attack. He constantly told me I was worthless, ugly, unhealthy, and not worthy of a joyful life. Every time I took a bite of food, he reminded me I didn’t deserve it. He reminded me that others would disapprove. He reminded me that I didn’t deserve to eat unless I worked out to exhaustion. He reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to eat “bad” foods – no matter how much I wanted or how much my body suffered.

Soon enough, ED had gained so much control that I no longer had a say in my life. ED wouldn’t let me think of anything other than food… I was starving, but ED didn’t care. I couldn’t eat with friends or family – instead, I had to eat in isolation, hiding the fact that I was eating food. If someone gave me food, I had to throw it away (even if it meant going to the washroom and flushing it away). I couldn’t go to restaurants or cafes, I couldn’t eat my grandpa’s homemade lemon meringue pie (which is probably the single best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life), and I certainly couldn’t eat if I didn’t exercise before – period. Day in, day out I’d spend hours just laying in my bed. I couldn’t concentrate, my brain was cloudy, my muscles ached from the lack of nutrients, my bones banged together and bruised, my skin became dry and flaky, my eyes struggled to stay open, my butt couldn’t sit on a wooden chair because it hurt too bad, the insides of my mouth were ripped up from biting on my cheeks out of hunger, and my liver was in SERIOUS trouble. It wasn’t until my dad sat me down and told me I had a few months to live before I finally found some sort of strength to tackle ED and get him the (bleep) out of my life.

With a TON of encouragement and support from friends and family, I began reincorporating my feared foods back into my life. It started with my parents preparing my meals for me – I’d sit down with them and they’d watch as I ate my food. They’d sit there for hours as I struggled to get the food down, and they’d encourage me when I didn’t think I could take another bite. I’d cry, yell, and scream but they stuck right by my side. We all knew it was ED who was the one getting upset, and we all just had to power our way through and keep on fighting.

When I wasn’t eating, I had to complete a little “homework” that my mom and dad planned out for me. My parents covered all of the mirrors in our house in brown paper (there was NO WAY to look at my body in my whole house!). I was tasked to go to each mirror and write something I loved about myself, or something I did that day that I was proud of. I loved this task – finally it was a mirror I actually liked going to. Instead of staring back at myself and judging my body, I saw who I truly was. I read the things I liked about myself and the things I was proud of myself for achieving. I finally saw myself in the ways that my parents and friends and family saw me – and I finally LOVED what I saw. I knew that in order to continue to be myself, I had to tackle ED, and looking in those “mirrors” gave me some of the motivation to do it!

As I continued to move through recovery, my parents started slowly adding more and more flavours to my food. I had avoided salt, sugar, condiments and flavour from my diet for so long that even a sprinkle of salt tasted like the saltiest dish in the world. Nevertheless, they started adding more flavour, more colour, and more variety to my meals. For once in a longggg time, I actually found some sort of enjoyment in tasting my food. Although the thought of eating the food was terrifying, the taste was good, and I could draw my attention towards flavours and away from the specific ingredients. I began spending time day-dreaming about my own recipes – I thought of different flavours that I might enjoy, and I wanted to start experimenting in the kitchen. I spoke to my parents, and they agreed that I could start cooking for myself – the only rule was that I had to use whole ingredients (no “fat-free” crap)! My parents supervised me for the first little while to ensure I was using whole ingredients, but after a month or so, I was on my own. By this time, I was truly looking forward to making food (and I was actually excited to taste it!). Sure, I was still afraid of some ingredients, but I was excited about trying out the dishes I’d envisioned in my mind. In short, I found relaxation by working with the exact same thing that terrified me the most…. Sounds weird, but hey, it worked, so I’m not complaining!

When I was well into recovery, I spent a TON of time watching cooking shows, and discovering the WHOLE nutrition behind the food I was eating. I looked back at my experiences with my eating disorder, and I compared how I felt then to how I felt as a survivor of anorexia nervosa. After comparing, it is CLEAR to me that using full fat ingredients, eating high calorie/nutrient dense foods, and incorporating condiments into meals is the BEST way to live a healthy lifestyle! Using full fat ingredients allowed my body to hydrate its skin (that had turned brown from being deprived of nutrients), and finally protected my bones from banging together and bruising. Plus, I was finally able to sit down on a wooden chair without having to pile up a bunch of pillows to cushion my butt! Eating high calorie/nutrient dense foods allowed me to spend less time eating while still getting a ton of nutrients (instead of eating pounds and pounds of salad, I could eat one bowl of vegetarian coconut curry – a lot less food and a much wider variety of nutrients!). Finally, incorporating condiments into my meals allowed me to actually ENJOY what I was eating – I could finally look forward to my meals, and not dread having to eat them. Eating a variety of foods allowed my body to thrive! I had so much energy, I built back my muscles, my blood work was finally in normal ranges, my heart rate and blood pressure returned to a stable state, and most importantly I was AT PEACE with my body and life.

My experiences with my eating disorder makes it clear to me that the media has it ALL WRONG. It’s not about being thin: being thin doesn’t determine your self worth, beauty, or capabilities. It’s not about calories. Calories are simply a measure of energy, the more there are, the more energy the food has to offer. That’s IT. It’s not about the fat and carbs. Everyone needs different ratios of macronutrients. What works for you is what your body needs (in short, listen to your body, not to the magazine that claims it knows more about you than you do…). Instead, it IS about loving your food. Enjoy the social activities that are usually paired with food. Savour the tastes and flavours that you love, and indulge in those ooey gooey decadent treats! It IS about getting a wide variety of nutrients, and incorporating many foods into your diet: eat veggies, fruits, whole grains, whole milk products, meats, alternatives, oils, and of course, don’t forget those sweets and treats! Finally (and most importantly), it IS about living an enjoyable life. Life is too short to stress about every little thing you eat. Eat whatever makes you feel good. Eat whatever allows your body, mind, and soul to be happy. Eat whatever puts a smile on your face, and share good food with the people you love. Eat to thrive, not just survive.


Kenzie is a George Brown Culinary Nutrition student who suffered from anorexia nervosa throughout her childhood and teenage years. Since recovery, Kenzie has written her own personal blog that can be found at https://thrivingonnature.wordpress.com/. In her blog, she discusses popular nutritional fads and myths, and shares some of her favourite recipes. Throughout the summer, Kenzie spent time teaching children how to cook nutritious meals and launched her own catering business called Last Piece Sweets. Last Piece Sweets delivers pastries, hosts cooking classes, and provides personal chef services, all while donating to mental health and eating disorder charities around Toronto. For more information, visit https://lastpiecesweets.com/.  The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and/or contributor and do not necessarily reflect the position of Alternative Food Network Inc.

Understanding Health Food Terms: Organic, All Natural and More

By Natalee Goodman

Have you ever found yourself in your local grocery store, looking at products and thinking, “What do all of these labels mean?” In our podcast, Organic and Other Health Food Buzzwords Explained, Dr. Ashley Salomon, MD, highlights ten of the most common and confusing health food terms that her patients ask her about.

  1. Non-GMO Non-GMO means not a genetically modified organism. This means that parts of the DNA in the food have not undergone artificial genetic engineering in a lab and they have not been combined with any other genetic material from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria. Some of the most common genetically modified foods are corn, soy, canola oil and sugar beets.
  2. All Natural This term means nothing, as Dr. Salomon tells listeners in the podcast. It’s best to just ignore this term unless there are other certifications on the label.
  3. Superfood Superfood is not a scientifically defined or technical term, says Dr. Salomon. Generally, this broad term refers to foods that are nutrient dense and have properties that are potentially beneficial to one’s health. This term is associated with clean, whole foods. Dr. Salomon’s list of superfood examples that she mentions in the podcast includes hemp, chia and flax seeds, berries, avocados, cruciferous vegetables, olive oil, garlic and ginger.
  4. Grass fed This term refers to animals that started out on a diet of grass, but do not necessarily eat exclusively grass as they may have been introduced to grains as well. This term does not mean that the animal lives on a grass pasture. The term commonly refers to animals excluding poultry.
  5. Grass Finished Grass finished is the ideal label to look for when shopping for meat products, according to Dr. Salomon. Though hard to find and more expensive, this label means that animals have been fed exclusively grass or vegetables for their entire life. This is the ideal type of meat because animals that eat more grass and fewer grains have higher levels of omega-3’s.
  6. Whole Food Whole foods are foods that have been minimally processed, minimally refined, and are mostly free of artificial chemicals and additives. Dr. Salomon recommends these foods as it is the cleanest way to eat. Think of it as eating a potato versus eating a potato chip – the less additives and preservatives, the better. Foods containing high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and dyes, for example, are not whole foods.
  7.  Naturally Sweetened ‘Naturally sweetened’ is a very broad term, warns Dr. Salomon. It refers to any plant derived sweetener. The term includes “healthier” versions such as raw honey, molasses, or maple syrup, as well as sweeteners that are more like sugar such as agave or cane syrup. Naturally sweetened also refers to some sweeteners that are not technically sugar-based such as xylitol, erythritol or stevia. Dr. Salomon recommends reading actual ingredients rather than relying on the term ‘naturally sweetened’.
  8. Pasture Raised This term indicates the animal has spent a portion of their lives on a pasture. This broad term doesn’t define how long the animal has spent on a pasture and also doesn’t guarantee that the animal exclusively grazed on grass. It is often the term used for poultry and eggs, as opposed to ‘grass fed’ and ‘grass finished’ which usually refers to other meats.
  9. Organic In the United States, to be “certified organic” food must be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (https://www.usda.gov/topics/organic) and labelled accordingly. A farm must have been free from all chemicals for 3 years before the food can be certified organic by the USDA. Any food with this label is inherently non-GMO, states Dr. Salomon. USDA certified organic must be 95% free of all pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes. Organic certification also means that the food is not processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or any genetic engineering. For organic meat products, the animal must not be given antibiotics or synthetic animal feed. Not only is the food cleaner but those working on the farm are not exposed to harsh chemicals.
  10. Macronutrients & Micronutrients Macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fat. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals in food. Vitamins are either water-soluble (e.g. vitamins B and C) or fat-soluble (vitamins A, V, E, or K). Minerals can be trace minerals (e.g. cobalt, iron, manganese, zinc) or macro minerals (e.g. calcium, magnesium, potassium).

Travel Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness

By Natalee Goodman

 All content or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Alternative Food Network Inc. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a reader based on the content of this site. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

When you travel, you may be at a higher risk for contracting a foodborne illness. In many countries across the globe, food, water and sanitation standards vary, leaving your immune system susceptible to a multitude of bacteria to which you are unaccustomed. On AFN’s podcast entitled Food Poisoning, Parasites and Food Safety, Dr. Ashley Salomon M.D. shares valuable travel tips to help prevent foodborne illness from potentially ruining your trip.

  1. Wash your hands often. 

This is something that everyone should do and often. Surfaces can harbour a multitude of bad bacteria and by not washing your hands before eating or preparing food, bacteria has the ability to enter your system and wreak havoc.

  1. Be mindful of water while travelling

Water is one of the largest potentially contaminated sources of foodborne illness when travelling. This is because water filtration standards vary by country. Dr. Ashley Salomon recommends always opting for bottled water but she cautions people to be aware that in some countries, bottles are filled with tap water, re-sealed, and then sold to unassuming travellers. Therefore, she recommends travelling with a hand held water filtration system that works using reverse osmosis to keep bacteria at a minimum.

If you can’t get your hands on a water filter, iodine tablets can also help reduce bacteria. They are sold over the counter and you just add to your water. This is not always the best option though, according to Dr. Salomon, as it isn’t suitable for people with iodine allergies. Furthermore, if the water contains stronger bacteria like Giardia, iodine will not be effective.

The easiest way to purify your water while travelling so it will be suitable for consumption is by bringing your water to a boil and letting it continue to boil for at least 60 seconds.

Dr. Salomon also reminds travellers to avoid drinks with ice. Though the drink itself may be fine, ice is very easily contaminated.

  1. Stay vigilant when eating out while travelling

Opt for fully cooked food (no raw fish sushi!) including vegetables. Produce can be easily contaminated with bacteria and parasites (see our other blog post) during the many steps from farm to plate and the best way to avoid is to order cooked produce such as stir fry or a sauté. When ordering meat, always asked for well done and don’t be afraid to send it back if it looks undercooked.

If you are indulging in any type of breakfast buffet look for fruit with peels, such as bananas or oranges. When peeling, be sure that the outer part of the peel does not touch the inner edible part in order to avoid contamination. When it comes to dairy, Dr. Salomon reminds travellers that dairy can contain different flora in different places in the world and is very easily contaminated so you may want to consider avoiding dairy products when you can.

  1. Travel items to bring with you

Dr. Salomon recommends travelling with activated charcoal capsules. They help bind toxins together in the gut and allow a person to flush them faster. However, Dr. Salomon recommends talking to your doctor first since charcoal can cause constipation. If you are looking for something that is easier on the stomach and gut, look for some shelf stable probiotics that you can easily bring with you on your trip.

If you are an adult travelling by air, she recommends bringing a colloidal silver throat & nose spray that can protect you from inhaling harmful bacteria.

Dr. Salomon also mentions a few immune-supportive herbs that you should ask your doctor about before you travel. Garlic oil extract, oregano oil, ginger, thyme, olive leaf, and cloves are anti-viral/antibiotic herbs that can aid in gut protection.

Safe travels!

Antimicrobial Foods

By Natalee Goodman

 All content or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Alternative Food Network Inc. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a reader based on the content of this site. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

As heard on AFN’s podcast about food poisoning, parasite infections and food safety  there are anti-bacterial foods that you can eat to maintain a healthy and strong gut while also potentially protecting against unwanted foodborne bacteria. These foods can also be eaten while travelling to help protect yourself.  

  1. Papaya
  2. Pumpkin seeds
  3. Curry
  4. Cloves
  5. Thyme 
  6. Black walnut
  7. Oregano oil
  8. Garlic
  9. Manuka Honey

Before making any dietary changes, be sure to talk to your doctor.