Monthly Archives: June 2014

30 Amazing Uses and Healing Powers of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is one of the most incredible healing tonics you will find anywhere, period. I’m not even exaggerating, I don’t have to. The results that you experience as you put it to use will demonstrate enough that you don’t need a “peer reviewed journal” to tell you that it’s a miracle juice. The proof is in the pudding.

Here’s a graphic with 20 uses for Apple Cider Vinegar, but to be honest with you, they’re not even the cream of the crop. Wait until you see the list BELOW the picture, that will blow your mind so hard you’ll probably run straight for the pantry and start mixing it into everything before you even finish reading the article.

Okay, as promised, here are 10 more uses for Apple Cider Vinegar that will forever blow your mind and change the way you see this tantalizing tonic.

21. Apple cider vinegar can detoxify your home.

This is an acidic mixture which is ridiculously strong, which means yes: It is in fact a cleaning agent. You can use it straight or mix it with water and other soaps to create your own household soaps and detergents to use on your floors, windows, clothes, and dishes. Hell, you can even put it in your hand-soap bottles! With that addition, you save tons of money on cleaning supplies, and drastically reduce the amount of chemicals and toxins in your home.

22. It can make your hair shine.

Apple cider vinegar can be used as a rinse for your hair after shampooing, and will boost your hair’s body and shine. I recommend recycling an old shampoo bottle, then filling it with 1/2 a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing several times a week for dramatic results.

23. It can remove stains from teeth.

Rub teeth directly with apple cider vinegar, and rinse with water. Simple enough instructions to follow, am I right?

24. It can soothe sunburned skin.

Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath, and soak for 10 minutes to eliminate discomfort from sunburn. Alternatively, if you want to rub it on without a bath, PLEASE mix it with water first. The intensity and strength of ACV if directly put on your skin could really hurt, although afterwards there’s no doubt you’d probably feel freaking fantastic 😉

25. It’s an all-natural massage treatment.

Rubbing apple cider vinegar on your hands and feet will give massage-like benefits and relief to tired hands and feet.

26. Apple cider vinegar can aid in weight loss.

For daily weight management, add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 16 ounces of water. This concoction can be sipped throughout the day. Data shows some limited, yet significant, weight loss benefits from sustained daily intake of acetic acid (which is a main ingredient in apple cider vinegar).

In a 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, it was found that subjects that consumed acetic acid for 12 weeks experienced significant declines in body weight, abdominal fat, waist circumference and triglycerides. Triglycerides contribute to the bad cholesterol that we want to avoid.

27. Apple cider vinegar will balance your entire inner body system.

The body constantly strives to achieve a state of equilibrium. Apple cider vinegar helps the body maintain a healthy alkaline pH level. Research shows that higher acid levels (lower pH level) leads to a lack of energy and higher incidences of infection. Hence, my desire to sip some a few times a day for a natural boost of energy.

As part of balancing the body’s pH, apple cider vinegar creates an overall detoxification of the body. Research shows that it can help stimulate cardiovascular circulation and help detoxify the liver.

28. The use of Apple Cider Vinegar is effective in repelling fleas on your pets.

One part vinegar and one part water can be sprayed on your pets fur and rubbed in generously to the skin. Saturate the entire coat, and continue every day for a few days to a week. Any flea infestation will surely be gone.

29. It can help your body get rid of candida.

This vinegar is rich in natural enzymes that can help rid your body of candida—yeasts that are attributed to thrush in humans. Candida also is blamed for creating symptoms of fatigue, poor memory, sugar cravings, and yeast infections.

30. It’s an all-natural room freshener.

Apple cider vinegar will clean your toilets and leave your bathroom smelling like apples! Just pour apple cider vinegar into the toilet, and allow it to sit overnight. Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom!

3 BONUS USES

(there is so much good info, I have to include it all!)

Bonus 1. Catching Flies

Flies are so bothersome… Take some ACV in a jar or a glass with a plastic lid or some kind of lid. Poke a few holes in it so the air can escape and flies can go through. They’ll get stuck in the drink and you’ll be free from their pesky bothersome ways.

Bonus 2. ACV is great for your lymphatic system.

This miracle vinegar helps to break up mucous throughout the body and cleanse the lymph nodes. Believe it or not, research suggests that apple cider vinegar can help with allergies because of its ability to reduce mucous and sinus congestion. When reducing the effects of allergies, it can also help stave off sinus infections and their related symptoms, such as sore throats and headaches.

Bonus 3. It Cures Athletes Foot Altogether

I have only recently found this one out, but I have personally witnessed it happening right before my eyes. Within a matter of days, with a single daily rubbing of ACV on a foot that has athletes foot, the foot is healed in its entirety, leaving nothing but a few lines as to the old effected area… and even they faded away within a day or two after that.

This stuff is seriously incredible. Give it a try, and you will see what I’m talking about 😉

[via The Spirit Science]

Do Juice Cleanses Work? 10 Truths About The Fad

The juice cleanse business is drawing in customers like fruit flies, promising weight loss, body detoxification and the treatment and prevention of everything from the common cold to cancer.

A nutritious juice here and there can be beneficial for your health, but when it’s taken to the extreme — limiting your diet to strictly juices for weeks — it not only fails to be the magic solution the fanatics are claiming it to be; it can also do more harm than good.

WHAT IS A JUICE CLEANSE/FAST?

During a juice fast or cleanse, a person limits their diet to only fresh vegetable and fruit juices and water for anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The fast focuses on freshly made, unpasteurized juice, so the usual bottles of OJ that you would pick up at the corner store wouldn’t be allowed.

People generally either buy the juices from a manufacturer of juice cleanse products or purchase a juicer and make their own concoctions at home. According to the New York Times, the new cleanses contain about 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day and often include a nut-milk component to provide a small amount of fat and protein.

Pathogens can live on all raw food, but packaged juices go through a pasteurization process that kills them. If you do make your own juices at home, make sure to only make enough for one serving so you don’t give dangerous organisms a chance to develop. And, as always, scrub that produce clean!

THE CLAIMS

1. It’s an easy way to add servings of vegetables and fruits to your diet.
The latest dietary guidelines recommend five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (2.5 to 6.5 cups per day), depending on a person’s caloric intake. The average American requires 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, so the average person’s goal is nine servings, or 4.5 cups, of fruits and veggies per day. (By the way, potatoes don’t count.)

Don’t eat that much produce? Neither does anyone else. That’s one reason fans of the juice cleanse say the diet is so healthy: You can fit a lot of fruit and veggie servings into one big glass of juice.

2. We get more health benefits from fruits and veggies in juice form.
You’ll find the following sentence, or something very similar, on almost every juice cleanse website: “Although eating fruits and vegetables in their natural state does provide us with a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals, we only obtain the maximum benefits from them when they are juiced.” Proponents of the cleanses will even tell you that drinking juice “gives the digestive system a break” from breaking down fiber. In reality, fiber helps with digestion.

3. Overweight? We guarantee you’ll lose weight!
Cleanse fanatics claim the diet is great for weight loss.

4. Everything else you want a magic pill for.
Juice cleanse websites tout the diet’s ability to make you feel more energized, boost your immune system, strengthen your bones, make your skin glow and reduce your risk of illness and disease.

10 Truths About Juice Cleanses

1. It’s dangerous for some people.
People undergoing chemotherapy, diabetics, people with nutritional deficiencies and people with kidney disease should not try a juice fast. The high sugar consumption involved in juice fasts can skyrocket blood-sugar levels in diabetics, which can result in fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurry vision, excessive hunger and thirst, and wounds or infections that heal more slowly than usual.

According to USA Today, the high levels of potassium and minerals from excessive juice consumption can build up in the blood to hazardous levels in those with kidney disease. And the high levels of antioxidants and low levels of protein can be dangerous for those undergoing chemo.

2. Juicing is not better than whole fruits and vegetables. In fact, it removes some nutrients.
While the juice form does hydrate and supply nutrients, registered dietitian Jennifer Nelson says there’s no reliable scientific research to support claims that juicing your produce is healthier than eating it whole. Actually, the fiber and some of the antioxidants found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables are often eliminated in the juicing process. For example, the white pulp in an orange provides flavonoids, but that’s usually left behind.

Because juice doesn’t offer the fiber contained in fruits and veggies, the body absorbs fructose sugar more easily, which can affect blood-sugar levels, according to Food Republic. If you do decide to try a juice cleanse, drink more veggie juices (carrots and beets not included) and limit fruit juice to one glass a day in order to avoid this potential side effect.

None of this means you shouldn’t drink juice. It simply means, instead of drinking only juice for weeks, a healthier route might just be including juices in a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.

3. Juices are less filling than whole fruits and vegetables.
You’re not going to feel as satisfied and full if you drink your meals instead of chewing them, Livestrong.com explains. Additionally, the fiber that’s been left out of the juice would have helped slow consumption and make you feel more sated.

4. Juice fasts can leave out critical nutrients your body needs to function properly.
You should always be skeptical when a diet requires extreme restrictions and cuts out entire food groups. There’s a reason dietary guidelines include various categories of food: You can’t get all of your essential vitamins and minerals out of just one.

Livestrong.com explains that juice fasts frequently lack substantial amounts of protein and fat. “Few fruits contain significant amounts of fat and protein, and vegetables that contain these macronutrients — such as avocados, beans and lentils — do not lend themselves to juicing,” Livestrong says. “Without sufficient protein, your body has no raw materials with which to build new tissue. A lack of fat leaves your skin and hair in poor shape and contributes to malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins.”

Extend your juice fast, and you might just cause serious damage. Dr. Glenn D. Braunstein, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, says that longer fasts could result in electrolyte imbalances. Additionally, if you’re not getting enough calories, your body could start using muscle tissue instead of fat for energy.

5. Like most fad diets, a juice fast is not an effective way to lose weight and keep it off.
Will you lose weight? Probably — you’re cutting out all of the fat from your diet and drastically lowering your caloric intake. But you’ll most likely put it right back on after the fast.

“There’s nothing wrong with going on a juice fast for a few days,” said Dr. James Dillard, assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, on WebMD. “But it’s not a great way to lose weight, because you’ll gain it all back — you yo-yo. It’s just like the Atkins diet. The weight you lose is water weight.” And Dr. Braunstein (of Cedars-Sinai) says this type of deprivation can also result in dizziness, nausea, constipation, fatigue and irritability.

Additionally, if you do this to your body enough, you could permanently lower your metabolism — as if it’s not tough enough to lose weight as it is. New York Times writer Judith Newman tried a juice cleanse and wrote about her experience: “This kind of cleansing puts a lot of stress on your body,” she wrote. “Your body wants and expects food. And as with most crash diets, which is really what this is, your body thinks it’s starving. It doesn’t know it’s going to get more food. So it lowers your metabolism, and if you do this enough, it can lower your metabolism permanently.”

6. There isn’t really anything to detox.
Don’t get me wrong: A “detox diet” to rid my body of all the crap I’ve recently put in it sounds convincing, even to me. Who wouldn’t want to “cleanse” their body of all the chemicals, fat and alcohol they’ve consumed? The fact is, though, our body does an excellent job of this already; our liver, kidneys and intestines filter the unwanted things we ingest and expel them through urine, bowel movements, breath and sweat. We don’t need to punish ourselves with strict juice-only diets to eliminate the bad stuff.

People were talking about detoxification back in the early 1900s, according to QuackWatch. Supporters of the process claimed that “intestinal sluggishness causes intestinal contents to putrefy, toxins are absorbed and chronic poisoning of the body results.” Scientists abandoned this theory, though, in the 1930s, and these mysterious “toxins” that everyone keeps trying to get rid of have never been discovered.

“Our bodies are very good at eliminating all the nasties that we might ingest over the festive season,” said Dr. John Emsley, a chemical scientist quoted in the Washington Times in a story about the potential of detox diets to get rid of all the junk we put in our bodies over the holidays. The idea of detoxing our bodies by “drinking fancy bottled water or sipping herbal teas is just nonsense.”

7. It’s not cheap.
The weight loss industry is a business — a booming one at that. As of February 2011, the weight loss market was valued at almost $60 billion, including bariatric surgery, diet soft drinks, health club revenues and more by Marketdata Enterprises. BluePrintCleanse, a popular New York-based manufacturer, will charge you $65 a day for its cleansing package of juices. Los Angeles-based Pressed Juicery offers three different cleanse packages, each providing five juices and one almond milk for a total cost of $70 a day.

Want to juice at home? Get ready to put down some money. Juicers range from $30 to $300. And since you shouldn’t be saving unpasteurized juice for later, you might want to buy one for the office while you’re at it.

8. “But my friend did it and said she felt amazing!”
It’s true. Many people who try these detox diets report having more energy and feeling more focused. However, as Mayo Clinic explains, this could be due to the belief that they’re doing something good for their bodies.

That said, you could also argue that there’s nothing wrong with a placebo effect if it does the job. As the NYT writer who tried one of these cleanses wrote, “What’s so bad about feeling a little better, even if there’s no demonstrable proof that you actually are better?”

9. It’s not going to cure cancer.
Proponents of the juice fast claim it will cure your case of the sniffles and even treat cancer. There has been no scientific evidence suggesting it will do anything but help increase your vitamin intake — which, yes, could benefit your health, but the calorie restriction and lack of protein might actually slow healing. Your body needs all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it can get to heal. The best thing you can do with your diet is to make sure you’re not depriving it of an essential nutrient and eat balanced, well-portioned meals.

As for cancer, the American Cancer Society states that current scientific research does not support fasting (including juice fasting) to treat it. Additionally, as previously stated, those undergoing chemotherapy should not attempt a juice fast because of the risk posed by the high levels of antioxidants and low levels of protein.

TO JUICE OR NOT TO JUICE

Look, there are some benefits to juice cleanses. If you follow it all the way through, you’ll probably feel a sense of accomplishment. You might feel like you’ve freed yourself from the control cravings had over you. Some people say it helps them break their unhealthy eating habits. And yes, for once, you’re probably getting the recommended servings of fruits and veggies, if not more, per day. But if you’re going to try a juice cleanse, make it short. It’s not healthy to restrict your body for weeks from the other nutritious foods it needs.

If you were considering doing a juice fast to lose weight, this isn’t the way to go. Moderation is key to any diet, and the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to make healthy lifestyle changes that you’ll be able to maintain throughout your life. USA Today does suggest, however, that replacing one meal with a juice in order to aid weight loss could benefit people without health concerns, as long as it’s supported with a balanced diet.

Registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky said it best on Mayo Clinic’s website: “The best diet is a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.”

[via hella walla]

The Post-GMO Economy

One mainstream farmer is returning to conventional seed — and he’s not alone

As an invulnerable tween, Chris Huegerich, the child of a prosperous farming family, wiped out on his motorcycle in tiny Breda, Iowa. Forty years on, folks still call Huegerich “Crash.” And though he eventually went down a conventional path (married, divorced) and bought out his parents’ farm, Huegerich has recently reverted to his daredevil ways — at least when it comes to choosing what kind of corn to plant.

It’s late November, and Huegerich’s 2,800 acres in central Iowa have been neatly shorn to sepia-and-umber stubble. His enormous combines and cultivators have been precision parked — wheel nut to headlight — inside his equipment sheds. But in Huegerich’s office, between the fields and the sheds, chaos reigns. A dozen dog-eared seed catalogs litter a table, along with marked-up spreadsheets and soil maps. For farmers choosing next year’s crop, this is decision time.

Huegerich, in his combine. He has no ideological problem with GMOs but has been experimenting with conventional seeds for financial reasons

Buying seeds used to be a fairly simple matter. Farmers picked four or five varieties offered by a regional dealer, and that was that. But in the mid-1990s, biotech companies started producing seeds genetically modified with traits from other organisms. One trait made soybeans resistant to the herbicide glyphosate; another, using a protein from the soil bacterium Bt, helped corn fend off the insects rootworm and European corn borer.

Huegerich’s father eagerly embraced the new genetically modified (GMO) seeds. They cost more, but he could save money on herbicides and pesticides. His yields and profits went up, helped in part by good weather and favorable market conditions. But as revenue rose and the years passed, trouble was looming.

“Five years ago the traits worked,” says the strongly built Huegerich, who followed in his father’s footsteps and planted GMO seeds. “I didn’t have corn rootworm because of the Bt gene, and I used less pesticide. Now, the worms are adjusting, and the weeds are resistant. Mother Nature adapts.”

Staring at a future of lower corn prices and higher inputs, Huegerich decided to experiment. Two years ago, he planted 320 acres of conventional corn and 1,700 with GMO corn. To his delight, the conventional fields yielded 15 to 30 more bushels per acre than the GMO fields, with a profit margin of up to $100 more per acre. And so in 2013, he upped the ante, ordering six varieties of conventional seeds for close to 750 acres and GMOs for his remaining acres.

Attachments for a skid loader sit stacked near the silos at Huegerich’s home base. After harvest, Huegerich has a busy winter planning for next year’s crop.

Hugerich Isn’t the only farmer retreating from GMO seeds. In pockets across the nation, commodity growers are becoming fed up with traits that don’t work like they used to. Not only are the seeds expensive (GMO corn can cost $150 more per bag than conventional corn), they’re also driving farmers to buy and apply more chemicals. During the growing season, Huegerich sprays both his conventional and his GMO corn twice with herbicides and twice with pesticides, despite the GMO’s theoretical resistance to rootworm. “It gives me peace of mind,” Huegerich says. Between 2001 and 2010, the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch reports, total on-farm herbicide use increased 26 percent as weed resistance grew. Today, 61.2 million acres of cropland, including many of Huegerich’s, are plagued by glyphosate-resistant weeds.

Just as plants and animals adapt to environmental pressures, retailers respond to consumer pressure. This past March, Whole Foods announced that by 2018 it would label all its foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. In June, Target announced it would debut a line of foods, called Simply Balanced, that would be free of genetically modified ingredients by the end of 2014. And by late summer, more than 20 states were considering genetic modification label laws.

While consumer demand will ultimately propel more non-GMO grain into the market, more proximate factors can also influence what kinds of seeds farmers plant. For example, geography. Does the grower live close to the river systems that send the vast majority of the nation’s conventional grain to GMO-averse markets in Japan, South Korea and the EU? Wyatt Muse, a merchandiser for Clarkson Grain, which buys conventional and organic corn and soybeans, pays farmers a premium — up to $2 extra per bushel over the base commodity price of soybeans, $1 for corn — to not only grow the crop but also preserve its identity. (That is, keep it separate from genetically modified grain all the way from planting through harvest, storage and transportation.)

Huegerich doesn’t live near a dry mill that would pay him a premium for conventional corn, or a river that can move his product out into the world. But he does live within trucking distance of Blair, Nebraska, where a Cargill-owned plant converts his crop into plastic for customers who want a bio-based product but can’t get behind GMO corn. “I get a fifty-cent-per-bushel premium,” Huegerich says.

Aaron Bloom doesn’t farm near an outlet that pays a premium, but he still comes out ahead with conventional corn. A crop consultant, Bloom has been experimenting with non-GMO varieties for five years on land he works around Cherokee, Iowa. “We get the same or better yields, and we save money up front,” he says. And yet when he first suggests conventional seeds to clients, he sometimes gets pushback. “Guys think that you have to get out the cultivator” — which pierces the soil between rows of crops — “and kill your weeds by hand. No! You’re going out there with the planter anyway, just add your insecticide and your conventional herbicides.” Last year, not one of the roughly 30 farmers to whom Bloom sold non-GMO seeds had a bad harvest — despite unprecedented drought. “And I’ve got another 20 trying this year.”

Still, winning converts to conventional corn can be an uphill slog. Post-harvest, farmers face a barrage of TV and print ads touting the latest seed technology. There’s a subtler psychology at work, too. Farmers have close relationships with their seed dealers, who often live nearby and keep them company at local baseball games, PTA meetings or church. “You can’t break up with them,” Bloom says, noting that seed dealers work on commission. DuPont Pioneer, for example, offers him a non-GMO corn for $180 a bag, while Wyffels Hybrids sold the same for $115 a bag last year.

Why does Pioneer charge so much? Because it doesn’t want lower-priced conventional seed to lure customers away from GMOs. Bloom says a company dealer confessed: “We don’t want our farmers to buy it.”

From left: Rotary hoes neatly stacked in Huegerich’s shop; The corn combine shows some attitude.

Into this breach, smaller companies that specialize in non-GMO seed have leapt. West Des Moines–based eMerge Genetics has averaged 30 percent growth in each of the last five years. Sales at Spectrum Seed Solutions, based in Linden, Indiana, have doubled every year of the four it’s been in business. Its president, Scott Odle, believes that non-GMO corn could be 20 percent of the market in five years. After surveying 10 smaller companies focusing on conventional seed in the grain belt earlier this year, Ken Roseboro, editor of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, reported that each saw an increase in demand. “And I think it’s going to continue,” he says.

But are there more acres of conventional corn being planted, or are small seed companies simply filling a niche that larger companies have relinquished? It’s difficult to say. Jeffrey Neu, a Monsanto spokesperson, says, “While we offer some conventional hybrids, we continue to see the greatest demand for ‘traited’ products. We typically do not provide percentage or sales information.” Daniel Jones, a business manager at DuPont Pioneer, says sales of his company’s conventional seeds have “trended up,” but he declines to say by how much. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 88 percent of the corn planted in the nation in 2011 and 2012 was genetically modified; in 2013, the percentage rose to 90. Because the total acreage of corn is so huge — 97 million acres — it obscures the acreage planted by farmers like Huegerich and Bloom. “The growth is regional and local,” Wyatt Muse of Clarkson Grain says, “so it won’t show up in the national data.”

Aaron Bloom, a farmer and business consultant at Huegerich’s farm;

The big seed companies are carefully watching state legislatures, spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat proposed labeling laws and fielding calls from food companies concerned with how such laws could impact production agriculture. “If such laws create a demand at the farmer level, we’ll have to respond,” Pioneer’s Jones says, cautiously. “But we won’t lead the charge.” Chuck Hill, specialty products manager at AgriGold Hybrids, which sells both GMOs and hybrids, sounds a similarly wary note: “Whole Foods’ decision to label was not an earthshaker,” he insists. “The company was already serving that clientele. Now, if Walmart decided to label GM food, that would be a major chit.”

And yet this parallel seed economy is churning. The Non-GMO Project, which offers third-party verification and labeling for non-GMO products, has been inundated with requests from food purveyors for information about enrolling their products, and consumer spending on non-GMO-verified products rose from $1.3 billion to $3.1 billion between 2011 and 2013. Companies that make non-GMO feed for animals, says Caroline Kinsman, communications manager for the Non-GMO Project, are experiencing “incredible demand.”

From left: A sign in the town of Breda, Iowa; Non-GMO corn shows its stuff at one of Huegerich’s farms

Sales at Hiland Naturals, which makes conventional and organic feeds for livestock, have more than doubled since it received Non-GMO Project verification last year. Most of Hiland’s customers are small farmers who sell eggs or meat at farmers markets and natural grocery stores. But many sell birds to Whole Foods and to institutions like colleges. Some of Hiland’s growth, owner Dan Masters says, comes from people wanting to know what they’re eating, some is from pending labeling laws and some is from “people who are tired of big corporations and big agriculture.”

As farmers across the grain belt were contemplating what they’d plant next spring, Masters was in talks with one of the nation’s largest animal feed producers to formulate a non-GMO-verified product. Should the deal come to fruition, it would more than double his company’s size and trigger the opening of several more mills.

“We need to get more farmers on board with conventional seed now,” Aaron Bloom says, anticipating the market’s growth. “We need to be innovative and grow toward the demand of the consumer.”

The article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, non-profit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture and environmental health.

[via modern farmer]

Fishing for Organics


As the organic marketplace continues to grow, government and environmental agencies, farmers, and conscious consumers continue to look for ways to classify products of all kinds as pesticide- and chemical-free. Fish are no exception. Possibly one of the most difficult to classify and, arguably, one of the most heavily contaminated foods available, seafood in general has recently become the subject of much debate in the world of organic.

What’s the Problem?
Unlike vegetables and land-based animals, controlling a wild fish environment is nearly impossible. Whereas farmers and ranchers can make sure that chickens, pork, and beef are fed antibiotic-free grain, and fruits and vegetables remain pesticide-free, there is no way of ensuring the diet of wild fish. Additionally, farmed fish often claim organic because the fish are fed organic meal and are kept in an antibiotic-free environment; however, they run the risk of contamination from feces and feed and the occasional “escapee” fish that risks harming natural populations.

Buyer Beware

After the recent studies showing high contamination levels in a variety of different seafood, buyers rushed to purchase wild fish over farm-raised—where it was believed many of the contamination issues were rooted. However, with wild fish out of season for extended periods of time, the organic label gave the perception of a healthier option over conventional, farm-raised fish. Fish markets and health food stores nation wide began selling “organic” fish—everything from salmon to snapper—even though it was never USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) approved to do so. Sometimes the organic or natural label signifies more responsible fish farming practices, such as frequently flushed tanks and the use of entirely organic plant feed. However, oftentimes, it is simply another country or third party claiming that the fish is organic-approved.1 Beyond that, what fish eat plays an important part in whether or not they can be considered for any sort of organic qualification. For instance, catfish eat only plant-based foods while carnivorous salmon feast on other fish; therefore, in order to guarantee an organic product, the actual fish food itself must also be organic.

Going With the Flow
Trying to keep up with the growing demand for organic products, the fish industry hopes the USDA will begin to reconsider the possibility of a fish-friendly USDA organic label. Early attempts to do so never came to fruition. Currently, fish products labeled organic (with no official regulation) sell for roughly $1.00 to $2.00 more per pound and are often purchased before farm-raised-labeled fish when wild fish is not in season. 2 However, given the broad spectrum of seafood growing environments and types, it is not likely that the USDA will develop a system any time soon.

What Can I Do?

In light of the current state of overfished oceans and contaminated seas, it is increasingly important to know exactly where your fish is coming from. Using the commonly scrutinized salmon as an example, “the largest survey yet of pollutants in salmon has found that farmed fish have higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and other organocholorine compounds than do wild-caught salmon.” 3 Traditionally, certain areas of the Pacific are thought to be cleaner than the Atlantic; hence, the high demand for wild Alaskan salmon. There are environmentally conscious farms springing up throughout the world. Many farmers are using ocean-based pens, which incorporate the forceful, natural ocean currents to flush away waste and that contain fewer fish as opposed to tightly crammed, man-made ponds that breed disease.4 Ultimately, being a conscious consumer and supporting responsible fish-farming practices when possible will be the best thing you can do to ensure you’re getting the healthiest fish on the market.

1 www.nalusda.gov
2 www.sciencemag.org

10 Trends Shifting The Way Products Are Being Made

New Hope 360 sat down with market watchers Liz Sloane, Steve French and Doug Kalman, and toured the show floor at SupplySide West in Las Vegas in October, and came away with new insights into consumer demands that savvy companies can use to help direct their new product development efforts.

The “Free-From” Movement Marches On

The “free-from” movement has legs. What was once fat-free or sugar-free has grown to a movement of exclusion diets against unhealthy food ingredients. Lactose. Nuts. Soy. Meat. Market watcher Liz Sloane, at the SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas Oct. 7, said free-from sales are pegged at $2.6 billion in the U.S. alone (gluten-free comprises 62 percent of that, with the millennials market making up the largest demographic segment), growing at 14 percent a year. What’s more, almost one-third of all consumers have tried some specialized diet or eating approach in the last year, she said.

How Big is Gluten-Free Really?

On gluten-free, Sloane said market estimates regarding the size of the market are all over the map, from Euromonitor pegging it at $486 million in 2013, and Nielsen saying it’s a $23 billion market. Regardless of the raw numbers, both Nielsen and Mintel (which says it’s a middle-ground $10.6 billion market) peg growth at about 16 percent a year. “But half of consumers who bought a gluten-free food or beverage did not know it was gluten-free,” said Sloane. “How do we really assess how big it is and how many people really intend on buying these products? It’s one of the most frustrating markets I’ve ever seen.” That frustration has birthed bearishness, and Sloane said the market is due for a flattening.

Will GMO Labeling Win at the Ballot Box?

In the last year, Gallup and other survey firms have inquired about the GMO issue. They found that about half of all consumers are aware of it. “And they want it labeled,” said Sloane. “Moms are instrumental in driving this.” The number of consumers indicating they would be less likely to purchase a food product if it was labeled that it contained GMOs rose from 63 percent in 2012 to 69 percent in 2013, said French, and almost one-third of consumers say they would stop buying a brand if they learned it has GMOs. That translates to significant volume declines for manufacturers – which is the big reason most mainstream brands oppose labeling. Voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on GMO labeling in the states of Colorado and Oregon come Nov. 4. It remains to be seen whether the alleged consumer desire to label it will change to don’t label it after all after consumers face the barrage of biotech-supported ads telling them their food prices will go up and their local farmers will suffer. We’ll get back to you on that after election day.

Organic = Best of the Best

The flip side of GMOs is organic. Look at it this way: GMOs represent the worst ingredient out there. Organics represent the best. So companies that label that they are GMO-free are essentially saying we don’t have the worst. But organics by definition contain no GMOs, and there is also a passel of other regulations around it vouchsafing the integrity of the entire production process around organic beyond just avoid the worst. According to 2014 unpublished data from the Hartman Group, about three-quarters of all consumers use organic, a number that is unchanged from the year prior. “Millennials and their parents have really upped their interest,” said Sloane. “Every organic category is up – dairy, breads, meats, snacks, condiments – with the exception of beverages, which is only stable at 7 percent growth.”

Transparency & Traceability

The four previous slides represent ethics that are all based on amped consumer sensitivity toward all things that are in the products they consume. In a word, transparency. “It used to be consumers accepted what was in a product. Now they want to know about what’s inside,” said Steve French, managing partner and owner of market watcher Natural Marketing Institute. “They want to know what’s inside, whether your particular product is safe and effective, and where it’s from. You get into the issue of GMOs.” Across generations, nearly seven in 10 consumers are reading labels. “This notion of transparency lends itself to the clean-label trend, which is a macro shift across many industries. Marketing loves this. R&D hates it.”

At the core of this transparency of ingredients trend is clean, minimally processed, with the finished ingredient name one that are easily read and more or less understood. What are consumers checking most? French broke it down to negative and positive items. Atop the negative list are calories, sugar, sodium and total fat. The second tier bad guys are trans fat, saturated fat, high fructose corn syrup. Only after eliminating the negative to consumers then look to the positive: fiber, protein, whole grains, vitamins, omega-3s, protein, probiotics, superfruits. The fastest-growing concerns are the big eight allergens: wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, milk.

It’s also broken down by age bracket, with boomers and matures looking at the content of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sweetener type, carbohydrates, trans fats and saturated fats, while the millennials tend to look for organic ingredients, vitamins and protein. “The closer you can get to Mother Nature, the better,” concluded French.

ADHD – Can Supplements Help?

Mothers are also driving the continued concern about their children’s mental and intellectual development and concentration in schools. We’re talking ADHD here – can supplements help? So they’re looking at both the negative and positive in ingredients. “Moms are making a strong effort to have no artificial flavors or colors (in what they buy for their children),” said Sloane. “They’re also looking for supplements like DHA to help with symptoms.”

For years, mothers (and others) have been looking for supplemental solutions to their children’s ADHD issues. While no silver bullet currently exists, research carries on. It has succeeded in identifying various lipids as well as botanicals that can help with a range of cognitive issues – not solving them but potentially ameliorating certain symptoms.

Millennials (Finally) Dig Healthy Ingredients

The big news in healthy ingredients is millennials. That age group, born between roughly 1980 and 2000, seems to be finally coming around to the natural products industry. “Five years ago I would have said millennials have not adopted health and wellness. We’ve just started to see this,” said French.

  • Protein: Two of every five consumers are increasing the amount of protein in their diet, whether it’s to help increase energy, maintain muscle mass and strength or to help them manage their weight. “Consumers understand the benefits,” said French. “Consumers don’t buy the ingredient – protein – but the benefit, which is three-fold: energy, muscle, weight.”
  • Omega-3s: Sure, an estimated 12 million consumers left the category in the last two years – the misguided concern about prostate health and questions about cardio veracity wiped out large swaths of the over-50 male, and young women stopped hearing the drumbeat about omega-3 benefits. But is it a stall, or are we primed for a rebuild? The national rollout of a PR campaign extolling the “always a good idea” benefits of omega-3s begins in 2015, and we expect to see momentum moving back toward consumers re-embracing the many different forms of omega-3 DHA and EPA.
  • Probiotics: The market continues to grow. It was an estimated $28 billion global market in 2011, said French, and estimated to grow at 6.8% CAGR to an estimated $45 billion by 2018. While regulatory bodies to date have strived to keep claims only to digestive health, the tsunami of research on other areas of health and wellness will work to expand official approvals – contingent on science (read: dosage) related to specific strains aligning with marketing on finished products.

#GotCaffeine?

Not so very long ago, the only people looking for a boost in sports performance were serious athletes and bodybuilders. But that’s all changed now as performance has turned on office slobs and energy has become mainstream. “The whole notion of energy has transformed over the last decade,” said French. “Just one huge example is the energy shot in the convenience store. Now when you ask consumers what they’re most concerned about as they age, it’s energy. Energy to do the things I want to do.”

Fitness & The Female Market

Sports nutrition is a $5 billion annual consumer spend. Which sounds like a rich opportunity, until you consider the “fitness nutrition” world. This comprises such non-Olympic sports as using weight machines, stretching, fishing, biking, running, walking, treadmill. Heck, it even includes bowling and billiards. In fact, a person engaged in so-called fitness nutrition even has an official definition – if you are “active” for at least 151 days a year. These people – pretty much everyone this side of couch potatoes – represents a $70 billion/year market. Yeah, baby! Fitness aficionados want protein. They eat nutrition bars – and women consume more than 15 million nutrition bars every year, compared to 12.4 million men. Talk about a major opportunity to start developing nutrition products geared especially for women! Doug Kalman, Ph.D., research director at Miami Research Associates, likes a branded ingredient called KoAct – a unique combination of calcium and collagen that, research shows, increases bone mineral density in a way that is superior to either alone. “To me this makes KoAct an unbelievable ingredient that is not known enough in the market,” said Kalman. “Fifty-five percent of the bar market is females. I see a great opportunity there, not only using protein but with bone-building health.”

Custom Supplement Formats

The biggest increase in supplements intake between 2009 and 2013 is among younger consumers, said French, who have discovered that they have to take care of themselves. “They have actually increased their pill intake by one full type of product. It went from half of millennials who had taken a supplement in the last 30 days. Now it’s almost seven in 10. That’s a huge increase.”

 Of note, these younger consumers want their supplements available in forms other than pills. Polls showed that in 2009, about 30 percent of millennials wanted supplements available in a form other than pills. By 2013, that had risen to fully 50 percent. Related, when asked if they would like it available in “liquid capsules,” what was 26 percent in 2009 grew to 46 percent by 2013. That spells opportunity for marketers and manufacturers looking to target this large demographic group. One lesson here is that one size doesn’t fit all. “Don’t think you can develop a product relevant for the entire population,” said French.

[via new hope 360]