Stench and Guilt-Free: What Makes a Deodorant All-Natural?

Everybody stinks from time to time, so everyone needs deodorant or anti-perspirant. But which should you use? Deodorant or antiperspirant?  When you’ve settled on which you should use, then you have to choose whether to go organic. In order to make this decision, you must first understand: What makes a deodorant or antiperspirant all-natural?

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant

First of all, we must acknowledge that most antiperspirants cannot be classified as all-natural because they contain derivatives of aluminum that stop sweating entirely. For example: Old Spice’s Fiji Antiperspirant contains the following as its active ingredient: Aluminum Zirconium Trichlorohydrex Gly (18%) (Anhydrous). Rather, all-natural deodorants contain ingredients that kill the bacteria that cause foul odors.

Essentially, the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is that the former kills odor-causing bacteria while the latter stops sweating. The reality is that there are no chemicals found in nature that actually stop sweating, so only deodorant can be made without artificial ingredients.

What Makes a Deodorant All-Natural?

Essentially, a deodorant is considered all natural when it is made entirely of ingredients found in nature, such as natural oils or waxes. Often, natural deodorants will contain natural oils to form the base of the product. Then, some type of powder or starch is added for absorption and odor control.

Some essential oils actually have antibacterial properties, such as lemon grass, rosemary, sage and tea tree oil. In addition to killing odor-causing bacteria, these essential oils add a natural fragrance to the deodorant product.

Finally, many natural deodorants will contain a wax that lends the product the texture that big name deodorants have.

Zinc Oxide and Magnesium Deodorant

One powerful natural deodorizing combination is zinc oxide and magnesium, which is used in innovative new products such as Primal Life Organics’ “Stick Up Natural Deodorant”. According to the product’s webpage, “applying magnesium topically can help deodorize the body more efficiently,” and “zinc oxide reacts with the short fatty acids that are responsible for body odor and converts them into odorless salts.”

Sweating purges your body of toxins. So when you apply antiperspirants, those toxins end up trapped in your body, threatening your lymph nodes. One study actually found that aluminum-derived antiperspirants can elevate a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

So go natural! There are many brands on the market. Find the one that works for you!

 

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


Naturally Frozen

Conventional wisdom tells us that whole foods are king. But what if you don’t have time to prepare a hot meal from scratch? Fortunately, there are frozen meals and foods out there that are made of well-sourced ingredients, unlike the bottom-of-the-barrel meat and produce used by some of the frozen meals industry’s worst offenders. Brands like Amy’s, Conte’s, Deep Foods or Red’s All Natural use quality organic and/or all natural ingredients and are healthy options for consumption at any minute of your busy schedule.

We’ll look at a few of the brands we mentioned above, and see what it is about their products that makes them such healthy options.

Amy’s

No discussion of organic frozen meals and foods would be complete without pioneer and industry juggernaut Amy’s Kitchen. All 250+ Amy’s products are vegetarian and do not contain hydrogenated fats and oils (trans fats), peanuts, GMO ingredients, eggs or seafood. This exclusivity of ingredients is a result of multiple health considerations, namely: how can we create food that is all-natural, allergy friendly, and trans-fat free?

Amy’s also adopts a model of sustainability that involves sourcing from farms that use safe pesticides. In addition to observing good food practices, the company also treats its employees with fairness and kindness and minimizes energy use in its facilities. Amy’s is a 21st century company in that it views itself as part of a national and global community and does its best to serve that community both with its products and its corporate character.

Red’s All Natural’s

These are some burritos! It’s not often that you find a microwave burrito that really packs a caloric punch, but in all the right ways. These burritos will leave you feeling full of energy after eating them. That is because the ingredients are sourced from the most well-run and sustainable farms and because it contains no artificial preservatives. Good meat + good vegetables + whole wheat tortilla = happy belly. Happy belly = happy you.

Red’s not only makes burritos, however, but they also produce microwavable meals, much like the ones Amy’s makes.

Deep Foods

Much like a “deep cut” on an album, Deep Foods is lesser known than these other two big players, but is still a hit among a smaller set of people. Deep Foods makes frozen Indian foods for an American market in such a way that is a well-won compromise between the Western and South Asian palates. They also make Middle Eastern and Near Eastern food, and it is safe to say these are healthy alternatives to Stouffer’s calorie-packed bonanzas.

Conte’s Pasta

The concept of Conte’s is simple: Gluten free frozen pasta with high quality all natural fillings. But simplicity makes for delectability, as these pastas contain high quality meats and cheeses as well as vegetable fillings like spinach, tomato, and garlic. This is good stuff, and can be found in most metropolitan areas.

So, don’t fear frozen food. Just be sure to know what you’re getting and always read the label and do your homework on companies to be sure of their reputations. The brands above and others can be very convenient alternatives to cooking from scratch, as well as delicious and healthy!

 

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


Good Foods for a Good Gut

The average human gut contains 300-500 different strains of bacteria and around 100 trillion individual bacteria cells in the gut. These bacteria break down our foods and allow for the various nutrients therein to become a part of us.

But these bacteria demand from us the foods they crave. And so we feed them. Some have preferences that are different from others. Some prefer fruits, plant proteins, and whole grains; some prefer meat; some prefer sugar and refined starches. The bottom line is: the ones you feed, you multiply. And some strains of the bacteria that prefers refined carbohydrates, such as Candida albicans, are nasty and can do terrible things to your body.

So we’re going to look at some foods and beverages in 2019 that are beneficial to your gut health. These are foods that either add to a healthy microbiome (the term for the little world the bacteria inhabit), or kill off bad bacteria like Candida.

Old Standbys

First thing’s first: While foods that contain probiotics are tremendously good for you, of extreme importance is remembering to eat the foods that breed a healthy microbiome in the first place. Foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and less fatty meats like chicken breast. Good bacteria like good, whole foods. The importance of this cannot be understated.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Before we look at foods that contain probiotics, we need to look at one key liquid that actually kills starch-craving bacteria like candida. Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which is the active chemical in vinegar, and which also gives vinegar its taste and smell. Acetic acid kills the three problem strains of Candida, helping to restore gut health.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a miracle beverage because it contains both acetic acid and supplemental probiotics. The acetic acid comes from one of the major bacterial strains in the concoction, acetobacter. Acetic acid is given off as a byproduct of cellular respiration and reproduction. So in a way, the acetobacter that grows in your stomach after drinking kombucha kills the candida.

(This differs from the author of this article’s image of good bacteria eating bad bacteria that he attempted to confirm on Google, but found no evidence to support. However: I think it’s safe to say that the image of acetobacter poisoning candida is equally satisfying, although it would also be cool if good bacteria ate bad bacteria.)

Yogurt

One could say that yogurt is inherently probiotic, since it is made by fermenting milk with bacterial cultures, but not all yogurt is created equal. Also, some yogurts’ colonies of bacteria are DOA when they hit grocery store shelves. Also, many yogurts are flavored with all kinds of artificial sweeteners or even with high fructose corn syrup—ingredients that are bad for the gut biome.

Often, yogurts will list the types of bacteria they contain on the ingredients list, so it is recommended that you read the label. Some yogurts have a label from the National Yogurt Association that says “Live and Active Culture.” If you don’t see this just read the label and often there will be a bacterial strain or three listed.

Fermented Veggies

This is the good stuff. Have you ever had fresh kimchi that almost seems to fizz? Have you ever had sauerkraut that had that extra bite to it? These flavor attributes are all signs of a healthy biome growing on this food. Companies like Cleveland Kraut create products that are rich in probiotics and that promote a healthy gut biome.

You can even ferment your own veggies. All you need is a mason jar, salt, water, and whatever spices you like. Just be careful you seal the mason jar so it is air tight. Failure to do so can result in a nasty and sudden death resulting from botulism. If you don’t want to risk it, you can find all manner of fermented products on the supermarket shelf.

We’re rooting for your gut. We want you to be happy and smile like this author is doing after several days of eating and drinking a plethora of probiotic foods. Why is the author of this article happy? Because 80% of the body’s serotonin (the neurotransmitter in the brain that promotes feelings of satiety, happiness and well-being) is contained in the gut. Consuming a massive amount of probiotics like this author did can result in a calm feeling of tranquility.

Give it a try sometime! You won’t regret it!

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


The Wild World of Mushrooms

All forms of life can be classified as one of three “biota.” The ones we most associate with food are flora and fauna—plants and animals, respectively. The third—fungi—we don’t care to eat as much because we associate it with rot and decay.

But people have been eating mushrooms since the dawn of time, which is a confounding fact considering only 3% of wild mushrooms are safe for human consumption. People have been seeking out safe mushrooms because many of the ones you can eat are delicious.

There is also great diversity within that 3% and people have enjoyed mushrooms for eons. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the mushrooms that are becoming more popular in the United States and that will be sure to rear their heads (pun intended) in 2019.

Truffles

Truffles have become more commonly found on grocery store shelves, both sold whole and as products like truffle oil and in chevre goat cheese. Truffles are delicious and good for you. Truffles are commonly found in Europe, in Italy and France. There are many kinds of truffles including white truffles, black truffles, and burgundy truffles.

Truffles are anti-microbial, contain crazy anti-oxidants, and have many essential vitamins and nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, carbohydrate, dietary fiber, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B-6, amino acids, terpenoids and sterols. They’re also very tasty and definitely worth a try.

Enokitake

Enoki mushrooms, known in Japanese as enokitake, are becoming more commonly found on supermarket shelves beyond Asian grocery stores. Besides being tasty, enoki contains antioxidants. They come in cans or whole and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

Oyster Mushrooms

One of the most common types of mushroom, the oyster mushroom is beloved on multiple continents. They, along with the other two mushrooms mentioned here, also contain ergothioneine, which is a powerful antioxidant.

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Little known fact: chanterelle mushrooms contain a chemical called “lentinan” which is available as an injection in Japan for its anti-cancer properties. Yet another compound in this fungus is called lanthionine, which supports wound healing and platelet production, and also can help in the treatment of thrombosis. On top of that, this mushroom has potent anti-cholesterol properties.

There are many more types of “’shrooms”, but we can only list so many here. Across the board, many of them contain the same nutrients, vitamins and minerals, along with a wide variety of antioxidants. So shroom it up and enjoy your fungus!

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


CBD: Trick or Treat?

Newsflash: weed gets you high.

Of course, if you don’t like that, you don’t have to partake. “But,” you say, “there are so many benefits of marijuana. How do I take advantage of those benefits and not get high?

The truth is, of the three most common active ingredients in marijuana (THC, CBD, or CBN), only one gets you high: THC. And the truth about THC? It doesn’t carry the same benefits as the other two, which, given the inherent drawback if you’re not into getting high, makes it unnecessary, particularly in light of the sheer beneficence of the other two chemicals.

Fortunately, just as there are edible treats with THC in them, so exists food and beverage that contains these compounds, which essentially contain all of the benefits of cannabis, but none of the intoxicating effects.

Here we’ll look at some of the benefits of CBD in particular and then we’ll look at some of the products on supermarket shelves that contain these friendly chemical compounds.

Cancer

Yes, CBD kills cancer cells. The American Cancer Society says on its website that “cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.”

Not that it’s wise to depend on CBD for cancer treatment, but consuming it may be beneficial in the long run as well as during treatment.

Anxiety

In the very short run, CBD is an anxiolytic substance, meaning it inhibits action in the brain that causes anxiety. Inhaling CBD has been known to provide lightning fast relief to anxiety. It calms nerves in a way that doesn’t have the same side-effect of low grade intoxication that many prescription anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines have. CBD is a powerful, non-prescription remedy to anxiety.

Of course, if you have been prescribed anxiolytic medication, we recommend that you go by what your doctor says and not our humble blog. While CBD does have proven anti-anxiety benefits, the prescription stuff is strong, and strong is what many people need for their anxiety disorders.

If you have an anxiety disorder, ask your doctor if CBD will interact with your medications in any way, just to be safe.

Pain

Pain is cruel. It spares no one and its remedies often carry the risk of dependence. Fortunately, CBD helps with pain. At one point in his life the author of this article purchased a cartridge of liquid CBD just to see what kind of effect the vapor would have. One day, while in possession of the oil, the author had to count out thousands of political signs in a warehouse, and so the author’s lumbar and upper shoulders started to take on a dull pain. The author then had several hits of the CBD oil vaporizer and the pain went away.

That’s right: the pain went away. Period. No placebo effect. The pain just went away. That is the magic of CBD, a compound with extraordinary analgesic magic.

Diabetes

One thing we cannot stress enough is that CBD has proven benefits to many conditions. It is not a cure to any of these conditions, but it can have a hand in ameliorating them.

That being said, people who consume CBD on a regular basis were found to have a 16% lower fasting insulin levels than those in the five-year study that had never used cannabis. Researchers also believe that cannabis’s anti-inflammatory properties may be implicated in treating insulin resistance.

 

Types of CBD treats

There are many other benefits of CBD, ranging from anti-acne properties to providing seizure relief to sleep assistance to being a neuroprotective. Now we’ll take a look at the types of CBD treats available on the market.

Cannabis-infused beverages

As of now, there are a slew of cannabis-infused beverages on the market, ranging in prospective production size from large beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Heineken to up and comers like Happy Apple, which sells apple flavored cannabis infused beverages.

Coke is very secretive about its plans for a cannabis-infused beverage, but one insider said that Heineken’s beverage(s) will most likely be non-alcoholic and that the flavor may range anywhere from a “fruit flavor to a coffee flavor to a kombucha”.

Of course, there are already products on the market such as “Cannabis Energy Drink,” which is a caffeinated beverage from Amsterdam that comes in (you guessed it) a bright green can with a pot leaf on it. We haven’t sampled it, so we can’t tell you if it’s any good, but it exists.

“Legal” brand drinks are another option that’s currently on the market, which claims to give you a “relaxing high”. Of course, that wouldn’t be legal; the truth is the product contains only CBD, hence the relaxation. Ultimately the only thing that may be illegal about Legal beverages is false advertising, but we’re gonna go ahead and guess that it’s a good product.

Other cannabis infused beverages include CBD-infused H2O by Root Origins and CBD-infused energy shots called Cannabis Quencher Sips.

Cannabis/CBD-Infused Foods

There are many CBD-infused foods on the market, but most of them are only available in markets that have legalized marijuana like Colorado or California. These products range from chocolate bars by Blank Brand to cookies to fruit roll-up type foods. To be honest, the foods I’ve listed so far sound like the kinds of things you’d eat after consuming these products, but CBD oil can also be added to pretty much any food so you can bake with it or add it to salad dressing.

That’s right: the oil itself is edible. That means if you wanted to you could incorporate it into many dishes, as long as you don’t apply direct heat. You can add it to a smoothie or mix it into peanut butter. You can also mix it into condiments like ketchup.

Nutiva actually sells hemp oil with CBD, and so does Aromatics International.

Your best means of consuming CBD with whole foods is to add it in the form of oil. Just don’t put the oil over heat if you want to get the full effect of the CBD. You can order hemp oil with CBD online or find it at some local stores. Most of the CBD-infused treats are only available where marijuana is legal.

CBD is good for you, and there are many good ways to consume it. If getting high isn’t for you, you should consider hemp oil or CBD-infused foods as an alternative. Ultimately, it is important that you’re happy and comfortable, and CBD definitely has a place in creating that space for any individual.

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


Does Kombucha Live Up to the Hype?

Let’s just say kombucha is an acquired taste. I would be lying by omission if I didn’t mention the slight vinegary flavor that sits beneath whatever sweeteners or flavor additions used to mask the less savory elements of kombucha’s flavor.

But the taste of kombucha is a taste that can be acquired when one considers the flavor as a whole, particularly when the flavor of the plain fermented tea is combined with other flavors, much in the way that kombucha drinks produced by brands like Health Ade and Humm are.

Brass Tacks: How Good For You is Kombucha?

Good for Your Gut

The primary known benefit (and the benefit that people most associate with kombucha) lies in the rich probiotic properties of the beverage. (The fermentation process that begets these bacterial strains also produces acetic acid, which is also found in vinegar and is the source of the slight vinegary taste in kombucha). The beneficial bacteria in kombucha have the power to kill bad gut bacteria like candida, which feeds on refined flour and causes the body to crave simple carbohydrates to satiate the bad bacteria’s bottomless hunger.

The good bacteria in kombucha consume these bad bacteria and also consume food, breaking down nutrients and playing a key role in the digestive system by processing food and excreting enzymes, vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin K.

Gut bacteria also causes the production of one of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters: serotonin. It is estimated that 90% of the brain’s serotonin is produced in the gut by the body’s helpful bacteria. That’s why whenever one consumes a beverage or food high in beneficial bacteria, one is prone to experiencing a warm feeling of happiness in brain and body. Serotonin is the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter. But it also plays an important role in various mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Research is being done into whether probiotics can help with such conditions; major conclusions have yet to be drawn.

Antioxidants Galore

Kombucha also contains a truckload of antioxidants, which are molecules that bind with and steal particles called free radicals, which cling to and oxidize (rust) the cells in our bodies.

According to a study published by Murugesan, et al, green tea kombucha has profound anti-toxic and antioxidant effects on the liver. Long term consumption of kombucha by rats reduced liver toxicity by 70%, according to the study.

Might Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

One study, published in 2012, revealed that, in laboratory rats, kombucha lowered bad cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipids) and raised good cholesterol (HDL or high-density lipids).

Potential Diabetes II Aide

A study of diabetic rats found that kombucha significantly slowed carb digestion, which prevented spikes in blood sugar characteristic of insulin-resistant diabetes.

A Word of Caution

Beware of home-brewed kombucha. If kombucha is not prepared properly, it could be dangerous due to pathological bacteria spreading instead of the good bacteria. That is why home kombucha brewing kits are something to potentially beware, as amateur mistakes can be made to disastrous effect.

That is why it is best to put one’s faith in brands like Health Ade, which processes its product in a way that is USDA compliant and certified safe.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is: kombucha is good for you. We listed above some of the benefits and, even though the only one of those benefits that has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt is the probiotic benefit, the other ones have some evidence to support their existence, and can enter into any reasonable discussion about the potential benefits of kombucha. This manner of speaking of kombucha is acceptable, so long as the caveat that the results of studies about these benefits are not yet conclusive is expressed as part and parcel of the discussion. So enjoy your kombucha and know that you’re doing a good thing for yourself by drinking it!

 

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


Halo Top and Ice Creams Like It: Low Calorie Innovations or a Risky Proposition?

Is Halo Top an angel or a deceiver? There are many genuine advantages to low-calorie ice creams, namely the fact that there are fewer calories in them. Full stop. The ‘but’ to that statement is a surprise to be revealed later in this article.

Here we’ll look at 3 brands of low-calorie ice cream: Enlightened, Breyers, and Halo Top. We will compare the advantages and nutrition information of each and try to understand the benefits (and even the risks) of this dietary innovation.

Enlightened

Among the highest quality low-calorie ice creams is Enlightened. Enlightened not only tastes like the ice creams with lots of sugar and milkfat; most pint-sized containers hold only 320 calories worth of ice cream, or 80 calories per serving (though we all know how easy it is to clear half of one of those things at least!).

Many flavors (there are 30) have just over 70 calories worth of fat per container, and up to 10 grams of protein! One flavor, triple chocolate (among the most caloric of the flavors), has 18 grams of carbohydrates. While normally each gram of a carbohydrate contains around 4 calories, most low-calorie ice creams contain a sugar alcohol called erythritol, which only contains .24 calories per gram. Erythritol is the (open) secret ingredient in low-calorie ice cream, and we’ll discuss its safety later in this article. Two thumbs up for Enlightened, though, for crafting what essentially amounts to high tech ice cream.

Breyers

Good ole’ Breyers. Breyers really comes through with their product, however much they seem like the establishment choice. The vanilla flavor has 260 calories per container and, like Enlightened, up to 10 grams of protein, depending on the flavor. Breyers also contains erythritol, as well as stevia for its sweetening properties. On top of it all, it’s good! Though you don’t get as many flavor choices (four).

Halo Top

The Vanilla Bean flavor of Halo Top contains just a little more fat than Breyers’ Vanilla Bean. But Halo Top contains 20 fewer calories because there are significantly fewer grams of carbohydrates that are not erythritol.

Halo Top is very much an originator of the trend of using erythritol in ice cream, and their OG status is reflective in the quality of the recipe. It tastes like one might mistakenly call “the real thing”. It tastes that way because it is the real thing. It’s good and, given the protein content and prebiotic blend, is, in some ways, good for you as well.

So What’s the Danger of Erythritol?

There are no proven risks of consuming erythritol. Enjoy your ice cream!

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


Chew Your Gosh Darn Food: How to Eat Mindfully

Have you ever had one bite-sized piece of a meal left, so you cut that one bite into several smaller bites and chewed really slowly? Have you ever tossed a handful of skittles into your mouth, knowing full well that when you only eat one at a time, the flavor still reaches every corner of your mouth anyways, just like the whole handful?

This begs the question: Why not just put one skittle in your mouth at a time? Why not take every bite as though it was your last? So often do people tend to shove food into their faces unthinkingly, only to reach the end of their meal not only far fuller than they would have been had they slowed down, but disappointed that the meal is over as well.

Among other things (such as mindfulness regarding ethical sourcing of food products), mindful eating involves allowing oneself to savor each bite of a meal, and being aware of what nutrients are in the food one is eating, and allowing oneself to experience an active awareness of the physical sensation of the act of refueling the body that eating constitutes. When eating mindfully, one ought to become more aware of the sensation of becoming fuller as one takes each bite and chews slowly (sometimes up to 25 times per bite!), reaching fullness alongside awareness.

The Three Main Addictive Flavor Profiles

Our brains are hardwired to seek out certain flavors of food, flavors which signal to our brains that the food contains nutrients and macronutrients that are beneficial to survival—namely fat, carbohydrates, and proteins. The three major addictive flavor profiles that are culprits in runaway weight gain are salty, fatty and sweet flavors. When one eats mindfully, one needs to eat and allow oneself to fully experience the sensations of the food and be aware of when salty, fatty, or sweet flavors are causing them to crave the next bite, which leads to faster eating and, ultimately, overeating.

Saltiness

Salt is prized by the brain’s reward system (basal ganglia) because of its role (along with other electrolytes) in contributing to the proper workings of muscles and nerves, among other functions. Through the miracle of evolution, our brains have decided that salt is good for us, therefore it makes salt taste good. Unfortunately, food today contains more sodium than nature had ever thought possible, therefore the salty flavor profile is often a sign of unhealthy food.

Fattiness

The next time you have a prime marbled steak with fat laced throughout the meat, take a moment after each bite to truly savor the meat and the fat. Allow yourself to feel the reward circuits in your brain go nuts for the fat, which is signaling to your brain that you will be able to survive until you kill your next prey. Eat the meat slowly enough, and you will likely eat less of it in a single sitting, meaning you won’t have done as much caloric damage and you’ll have leftovers!

Fat is stored fuel, so fatty foods contain a formerly living being’s stored fuel, which humans are able to use as their own. When eating fatty foods mindfully, say to yourself: “This is fuel” and become aware of the fuel integrating into the fabric of your body.

Sweet flavor

While fat is stored fuel, carbohydrates are readily available fuel sources that that the body uses faster than fat, but which turn into fat if they go unused. Carbs are contained in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes among other food categories. Carbs, and the varying levels of sweetness that come with them constitute an addictive flavor profile, particularly when candies pack up to 30 grams of sugar in a single regular sized bar.

Carbohydrates are fuel and necessary, but when the brain is hijacked by excessive amounts of a good thing, it can lead to overeating and weight gain.

What to do?

First, read the label of the food you are eating. Examine both the ingredients and nutrition facts. Try to learn as many typical food ingredients as you can (there are many)—from whole kernel corn to the myriad corn-derived food ingredients in most products on the supermarket shelf. Know which ingredients are contributing to which of the above addictive flavor profiles.

For example: You are free to enjoy a sugary soft drink. This is America, after all! But you should still read the label if you want to be mindful about the beverage and its contents.

You look at the ingredients and you see high fructose corn syrup listed second. Then you look at the nutrition facts and you see that the calorie count for the whole bottle is 310. You take the first sip. Feel the electricity of the sweetness from your tongue to your belly to your brain. Examine whatever physical sensations come with the taste and swallow the soda.

At this point you’re probably feeling sick to your stomach. Now feel free to put the soda back into the fridge where you might want to have it in case you get a sugar craving later! Just make sure you do everything outlined above again whenever you want more soda!

Where does this food come from?

A corollary element of mindful eating is being aware of where food comes from and knowing whether good practices are being used to cultivate all of the ingredients in the food you are eating. What grade meat are you eating? Is your steak cutter/utility meat or USDA Choice or Select, which is what you find in most grocery stores. The cutter meat is what they put in microwavable meals and McDonald’s hamburgers, prime is what you find in fine dining restaurants, and choice and select are the primary grades of meat available in grocery stores.

Other questions to consider include: is the food organic? How long a distance did the food have to travel? How was the food grown (fertilizer, soil type, etc.)? What kind of feed was used? Corn? Grass? Something else?

These are all additional things to be considered when choosing the food to use the above techniques on.

So next time you eat, take a moment to consider what you are putting into your body—what will become you. Observe the sensations of food becoming a part of you, and above all: enjoy. Eat, drink and be merry, but always go to great and mindful lengths to enjoy it.

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


The Future of Food - Part 1: Gene Editing

Consider the tomato: When tomatoes become ripe, they fall to the ground and become bruised, or worse: rotten or eaten by worms and bugs. What if there was a means by which scientists could change the genetic coding that caused tomatoes to fall off the vine when ripe?

Enter CRISPR/Cas 9:

When one hears about what CRISPR does, which is edit genes, one would think that it would be some sort of machine. What it actually is is a naturally occurring family of DNA snippets that occurs in bacteria as a defense against DNA-altering viruses. CRISPRs actually “remember” DNA that is changed by viruses and triggers the reproduction of the original DNA.

This faculty is the characteristic of CRISPRs that allows scientists to manipulate DNA with them by cutting DNA at certain points and adding or subtracting to the existing strands.

CRISPRs at Work

Water-Efficient Crops

One of the chief projects being undertaken using CRISPR is the development of crops that don’t need to be watered as much. This is done by triggering the plant to close its stomata, which function as pores that essentially sweat water. Currently, tobacco is being used as the guinea pig plant because it is the most susceptible to genetic modifications, whether using CRISPR or through traditional methods like selective breeding. Plants that don’t need to be watered as much will (obviously) save water, but they can also be grown in greater abundance, making it easier to feed larger populations of people.

Heat-Resistant Cows

As the planet grows hotter, there is a need for heat resistant cows. CRISPR has allowed for scientists to splice genes, creating the “Brangus” cow, which is a combination of the Brahman and Angus cows. The Brahman cow is heat resistant and has an excellent immune defense from disease, while the Angus cow is widely known for producing top-grade beef.

Bigger goats and dogs for the third-world

Researchers in China have made use of CRISPR for the purposes of deleting the genes in goats and dogs (yes, dogs) to make them larger for the purposes of human consumption. One example of this is when they spliced the genes of a pit bull and a beagle, creating a dog with a pit bull body and a beagle head. Cute?

Bioethical Concerns

It’s imagery like this that really gets one to question whether gene editing is worth whatever risks may accompany it. It may be a bit narrow-minded to say that this is immoral based on the fact that it is unnatural or that human beings are “playing God”, but nature is complex beyond our ability to fully understand it. There may be hidden benefits to genetic traits that may pose challenges to us, and by altering genes, we may risk losing those benefits.

It is the risks that cause ethical complications, though, in the case of gene editing, the potential benefits generally outweigh the risks. The FDA views gene editing as being breeding, but exponentially faster, so federal regulations are minimal. A number of startups have taken root to tackle the problems CRISPR may be instrumental in solving, and tremendous progress is being made as researchers learn more about the capabilities of CRISPR every day. The more we learn about this technology, the more we can do with it and the more it can help people around the world.

 

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.


Out with the Old, In with the… Ancient?

It seems that many trends in organic food involve old traditions rendered into new products. Ancient grains are an apparent example of this. People have been consuming foods such as quinoa, spelt, bulgur, chia and buckwheat since well before human civilization’s agricultural revolution, and yet most of today’s Americans hadn’t heard of them before the dawn of this millennium.

Due to the foundation of a wave of new companies like Ancient Harvest, Canaan Fair Trade, or Tiny Hero (links), more people than ever are buying organic food. Companies like these sell everything from microwave-ready quinoa (Ancient Harvest) to Flame-Roasted Freekeh (Canaan Fair Trade) straight from the Levant. Companies like these are also part of the wave of people promoting the health food revolution, which, in so many ways, starts with the most ancient form of crop: the grain.

What is an ancient grain?

Consumers may recognize pseudocereals like quinoa and chia as being commonly referred to ancient grains, but there are many more species of ancient grains, such as spelt, bulgur, and buckwheat. These grains are different from more common grains and cereals such as wheat, corn and rice because they haven’t been selectively bred for certain traits, but, rather, are closer to the form they took when they were consumed by the nomadic people (or people of early civilizations like the Aztecs, Egyptians or Sumerians) who depended upon them for survival.

Various forms of these grains were used by these civilizations and their forebears before farming practices were developed, and many of them have health benefits that have since disappeared from starchy crops in more recent millennia.

A Few Kinds of Ancient Grains

Ancient grains come in many forms: wheats, pseudocereals, grains. We’ll look at 5 specific ancient grains here that are some of the more commonly found ones in the United States of America.

Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the most common ancient grains and can be found in a variety of grocery stores, produced by a variety of companies like Tiny Hero Foods, Canaan Food Group, or Ancient Harvest. Quinoa is of the amaranth family. What we eat when we eat quinoa is actually the seed of the plant, but it absorbs water, almost like couscous, but completely different.

Freekeh

Freekeh is a little more difficult to find. It is produced from young wheat, which is still green when harvested. It is then roasted and can be eaten plain or used like croutons in salad. Technically freekeh is the term describing the process of roasting durum wheat in this way, but the dish has been called freekeh for long enough where no one will give you the evil eye if you call it freekeh.

Spelt

Also known as dinkel wheat, spelt has been grown by humans since 5000 BC. It is one of the earliest domesticated crops. Per hundred grams, spelt contains approximately 70grams of carbohydrates (including 11 grams of fiber), and 15 grams of protein! The crop is also rich in essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous, and contains B-vitamins in abundance. Put simply, spelt is high quality fuel, and has a low glycemic index level and a high concentration of beneficial nutrients and macronutrients.

Buckwheat

A relative of rhubarb, and not even technically a grain, buckwheat is grown in places as remote as Bhutan and as familiar as France. It is considered a pseudocereal since it shares so many traits in common with wheats and grains such as water solubility and high concentration of complex carbohydrates. Despite growing demand, buckwheat remains a very minor crop in the United States, only accounting for approximately 25,000 acres grown annually.

So what are the health benefits of ancient grains?

The central benefits of ancient grains stem from the fact that they are more complex carbohydrates than modern starches like wheat. This means that they have a lower glycemic index level than modern starches, meaning they do not precipitate a spike in blood pressure in the way that white rice or corn do. The carbohydrates take longer to break down and therefore can be utilized more effectively so they aren’t stored as fat right away.

Regularly consuming food with a high glycemic index level can lead to diabetes, meaning replacing consumption of refined or processed carbohydrates with ancient grains may help reduce your risk of diabetes.

Yet another health benefit lies in the rich antioxidant properties of most ancient grains. Antioxidants are molecules that donate electrons to molecules called ‘free radicals’, which can cause mutations in DNA. By donating electrons to these free radicals, antioxidants neutralize the oxidizing (rusting) charge of the free radical and prevent it from doing any further harm.

Where can I buy ancient grains?

Stores from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods carry ancient grains, although some ancient grains are more common than others in certain locations. Quinoa and chia are the most common, although you can find grains like bulgur as ingredients in other foods in many stores. Brands such as Ancient Harvest or Tiny Hero can be found at stores such as Jewel Osco, Fareway or Jungle Jim’s.

More heavily populated areas will tend to have higher availability of ancient grains other than quinoa due to the diversity of palates that comes with higher population densities. Nevertheless, many Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs, even in relatively remote locations, sell ancient grains, just not the diversity that can be found in smaller health food stores in urban areas.

The future of ancient grains

The future looks bright for ancient grains as more people become aware of best practices in food consumption. The starches/carbohydrates in ancient grains are, generally speaking, more complex than even whole grain, and far more complex than refined wheat. The increased popularity of ancient grains is further evidence of a shift in the American palate as the public is educated about healthy habits and the right dietary choices, which are available to be made with every meal.

 

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Chad Weisman—CEO, Golden Strands Communication; ‘creative type’; surfer on the amber waves of grain; avid concert attendee.