Sometimes covered in dirt, mushrooms don’t always look appetizing. In Asia mushrooms are considered a symbol of healthy and longevity. They’re rich in immune-boosting properties. They’re surprisingly antioxidant rich and regular consumption can help protect against cardiovascular disease. They’re also a great food for weight-loss as they’re low in calories, good fiber, and very filling.
Eating: Raw mushrooms contain compounds that can interfere with the absorption of nutrients so it’s preferable to eat them cooked.
Preparation: To clean them, wipe them off with a damp paper towel to remove the dirt.
Selection: Organic is best because mushrooms absorb much of the pollutants in the air, water, and soil they grow in. The caps are best when smooth and unblemished, avoid slimy ones. If you’re buying small mushrooms, flip them over and see if the cap is separating from the stem. If it is, it’s less fresh so choose ones with no gap.
Storage: NEVER in a plastic bag or open container, they’ll spoil much quicker. Refrigerate them in a closed paper bag and they’ll be good for about a week.
Nutrition: The most nutritious mushrooms are shittake and maitake.
I think all of us can honestly say at one time or another, or maybe quite frequently, (you know who you are…) are guilty of blurring the truth. Whether it was to protect ourselves, or avoid something, or to get a job, maybe to convince someone to share our beliefs. Perhaps we’ve avoided being totally TRANSPARENT….. about our past, present, money situation, history, or work.
“I’m too busy.”
Some people would debate whether or not full disclosure and transparency are the foundation of all successful relationships. “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” For too long we’ve felt this way about our food. But now, not so much. Now consumers everywhere care more about what’s in their food, where it came from, and who made it. And rightfully so.
OK, So What IS Transparency
As Savvy Shoppers we should expect more TRANSPARENCY- a clear window into the sourcing and mission of the companies behind our food. We want transparency in where and how our food is produced and how it reaches us. Trusting manufacturers’ sourcing and supply chain practices gives us a closer connection to our food. You might think of transparency in terms like “openness,” “honesty,” being “public,” “clear,” “visible,” or “not hidden”. We hear and see constant marketing messages at light speed. So much so that we’ve become quite numb to them. Many of us are grasping at straws to make sense of the messages and in turn, make smart choices in the foods we purchase, which brands to support, and which stores meet our standards.
Transparency not only applies to what products we’re shopping for, but also from where we buy it. Do you have a favorite grocery store? Savvy Shoppers are demanding easy access to relevant information, understandable and clear quality standards, sustainable and ethical business practices, and fair treatment of employees. The types of stores that are most transparent in their missions, quality standards, and take the lead in transparency are: natural & organic stores, on-line only stores, club stores, fresh-focused stores and mid-size conventional stores. The types of stores that are less likely to be transparent are: discount stores, convenience stores, super centers, dollar stores, and drug stores.
How do you know if your store is committed to transparency? A retail store should make an effort to connect with its shoppers with a “wellness” focus. They should encourage a connection with your food and where it comes from. Do they have easy access to relevant information, clear quality standards, are they proactive and accountable? Do they treat their employees fairly, and are they open about their business practices? What do they do with their garbage; recycle and compost waste? What happens to products they can’t sell? Do they donate it to local food banks?
6 CATEGORIES OF TRANSPARENCY: Openness and Honesty
Product transparency goes beyond what is on the label. To create a dynamic of trust, manufacturers and retailers should openly and honestly share this information in an easily understandable way:
- Access to product information.
- Clear quality standards. Including natural, organic, animal welfare and ingredients.
- Productivity and accountability.
- How ingredients are sourced.
- Fair treatment of employees.
- Open about business practices, ethical? Sustainable? How do they give back to their communities?
We are all “Connected”
We are always connected; the internet is now available to us wherever we’re at and whenever we want it. Being able to access information not on the label should be easy and quick to find on a brand’s website. If it’s not it may be time to look for a new brand that accommodates your interest in the information in an easy to understand way.
Online sales continue to expand as we adopt a mix-and-match attitude to grocery shopping. The food industry must adapt and respond to a more inter-connected relationship with their customers. The digital age has made it easier for us to find information on demand (or lack of information). As a result, we can communicate with manufacturers and retailers much easier and tell our friends and families about what we like and what we don’t like.
Food and beverage brands understand that transparency is a great opportunity to build trust, acquire new customers and build brand loyalty. So, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions and give feedback. Doing this empowers you as a shopper and gives them valuable information on how to improve.
Where do I begin? How do know what to look for?
The best place to start is the label. Another buzz word you may have heard is CLEAN LABEL. My next post will cover what that means and how it relates to TRANSPARENCY and what to look for.
I’d love to hear in the comments if TRANSPARENCY is important to you? What do you look for now and what would you like to start looking for? To you, is it more important to look for what’s in products, or what’s missing from products?
As always, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my blog and follow Fresh Look Foods.
Happy New Year!!
FOOD IS POLITICS
The food industry plays politics just as well as any other industry. Food politics underlie all politics. There’s no industry more important to us or more fundamentally linked to our well-being and the future well-being of our children. Corporate control of the nation’s food system limits our choices and threatens our health. Over the last decade “food movements” have emerged. Industrialization of food production has social/environmental/public health/animal welfare/gastronomic costs, high costs. Programs that have stimulated activism include: school lunch reform; the campaign for animal rights and welfare; the campaign against genetically modified crops, the rise of organic and locally produced food; efforts to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes; “food sovereignty”, farm bill reform, food safety regulation, farmland preservation, student organizing about food issues on campuses, efforts to promote urban agriculture and ensure communities have access to healthy food, initiatives to create gardens and cooking classes in schools; farm worker rights, nutrition labeling; feedlot pollution, and regulating marketing messages and food ingredients – especially to kids.
Food for Thought
A recent article in Food and Wine talks about our current trend of political awareness and debate and some ways that the food industry is taking action and inspiring engagement. Here are some from the article I thought sounded interesting:
- Potluck Nation Blog – Organizes dinners devoted to open communication and invites readers to do the same.
- Coup – A New York City bar donates all profits to organizations like Planned Parenthood.
- Julia Turshen – a cookbook author who donates a portion of sales from her book Feed the Resistance to the ACLU. In Julia’s words, “Food is an incredibly approachable way to understand people and also to get involved. At the end of the day, food is about people, and so are politics.”
Projects like these are just a small sample of what individuals and organizations are doing to build bridges and inspire more food movement participants to take action where and how they can to ease the struggles for social and economic justice in the food industry. I love how these grassroots projects come together in ways that are unique to people’s talents and passions.
THRIVE- THE SMART WAY TO SAVE MONEY ON HEALTHY FOOD
I live in a small town in Washington State where I was born and raised. When I moved back here from Seattle I was worried that I would not have access to the variety of Natural and Organic products I had easily available at nearby stores. Fortunately, we have a couple locally owned stores committed to making good food available to our community. This isn’t always the case in rural communities. It can be a challenge in large cities too; you may have heard the term “Food Deserts” – for more on food equity and what that means to people and communities, please read my post from earlier this month here: Part One: Food Equity, Where Does It Fit In? Part Two: The Impact of Food Insecurity, Part Three will follow soon. I can also fill in missing favorites by ordering from Thrive Market.
On-line shopping has become so easy and convenient and grocery shopping is no exception. On the Fresh Look Foods’ website, you can purchase products two ways directly Fresh Look Foods website. We partner with both Amazon and Thrive Market. Everyone is familiar with Amazon but Thrive Market, is not quite so well-known. They’re a fantastic option for shopping for Natural and Organic foods.Thrive offers something for anyone and everyone who wants to eat healthier and live well. They have a great mix of products to choose from that are best-in-class of organic, non-GMO, vegan, raw, paleo and gluten free. The company’s merchandising team works directly with brands to purchase natural, healthy food and products at wholesale prices. These prices are typically 25 to 50 percent lower than what the same products sell for in brick and mortar stores. Instead of adding on the typical markup, Thrive Market passes the savings on to their customers. All of the products they offer are sold at true wholesale prices. They’re really looking out for the average shopper! One of the things I love about Thrive is seeing the total amount I’ve saved to date on the products I’ve purchased.
Like Costco or other warehouse clubs, Thrive Market is membership based. Members purchase a membership for $59.95 per year – just $5 per month. If the membership fee seems like a big commitment, you can try it out with 30 Day Trial Membership before you pay the annual fee. With a Thrive membership comes access to more than 3,000 of the top organic, non-GMO, healthy products. They make it really easy to shop. Every single product is tagged by over 90 different values like Non-GMO, Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo, Sustainably Farmed, etc. You can simply browse the website, fill your cart with whatever products you like, and have your order shipped directly to your home. This membership model is a key part of the business model. There’s strength in numbers – Thrive’s buying power and the ability to get great deals, increases as membership increases.
Take a little browse around now click here and Get an extra 25% OFF + Free Shipping on your first box of groceries on Thrive Market + 30-Day Free Trial!
A Thrive Market membership fee has an even more important function. For every paying member who joins, Thrive Market donates one free membership to a family in need. This social mission fits into Thrive’s larger goal – making healthy food accessible to everyone. Low-income families are most likely to eat unhealthy diets and suffer the long-term health consequences of those choices. Having very little discretionary income often forces families to buy the cheapest food, low in nutrition. Applying for the free membership is a quick and easy process. If you find yourself in this position, don’t feel shame in applying for a free membership, feel empowered that you are making healthy and smart choices and improving your life with safe and healthy foods and products.
Your membership will pay for itself in savings within the year, guaranteed. If not, you get the difference in Thrive Market credit when you renew.
Finding new natural and organic products to replace your old favorites
I just received a HUGE box of wonderful samples from Thrive; what a BLAST to get these delivered and to work through some new stuff and some things I’ve been wanting to try. I’ll start posting reviews and recommendations on all these products VERY SOON! Stay tuned and follow Fresh Look Foods for all the details. And remember to sign up for our regular updates and newsletter here:
What products do you have a hard time finding where you live? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Maybe I can help you find what you’re looking for!
Initially, I started to write this post thinking of and referring to MSG as POISON. After some research, I found there are many angles to this ingredient and whether it is harmful or harmless. Ask almost anyone what they know about MSG and you’ll get a bunch of reactions and responses. Read along and judge for yourself if evil is lurking in YOUR food.
THE SCIENCE-Y STUFF
Glutamic acid is a nonessential amino acid important to the synthesis of proteins contributing to a healthy immune and digestive system and in energy production. It naturally occurs in fish, meat, eggs, poultry, legumes, and dairy products.
MSG, Monosodium Glutamate, is classified as a type of amino acid too. The sodium salt of glutamic acid has exactly one (mono)sodium/salt atom attached to an atom of glutamic acid. In food production, manufacturers use it as a flavor enhancer. It also occurs NATURALLY in tomatoes, cheeses, seaweed, mushrooms, potatoes, corn and green tea. In Japan, in 1908, Ikeda Kikunae extracted MSG from seaweed (Kombu) broth and crystallized it for flavor enhancement of other foods. Its distinctive taste was called UMAMI, “tasty” in Japanese. But this method wasn’t efficient enough to produce commercially. High volume extraction and production is where the problems begin. Naturally occurring Glutamic acid works with the body in many important ways and works together with other amino acids. As a result, not only the processing and extraction of glutamate but also the high concentration in processed foods disrupts the natural balance.
CHINESE RESTAURANT SYNDROME
Today MSG is produced through a fermentation process and extracted from glutamate, mostly sugar beets, molasses and cane sugar. Typically, most amino acids break down in the liver. But some, like glutamate, are more difficult to flush out of the body. As a result, Glutamate causes the nerves to fire and if they fire excessively cause a form of neurotoxicity. In light of that, MSG causes some negative side effects like: (commonly called CHINESE RESTAURANT SYNDROME)
- Headache or Migraine
- Feeling Flushed
- Sweating or hot flashes
- Numbness or “pins & needles” in extremities
- Chest pain and/or heart palpitations
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Brain fog
- Hive like breakouts
All things considered, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) categorizes MSG as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe). Many studies done by different groups haven’t gotten consistent negative results. In light of that, none of the research shows MSG as toxic or a reliable cause of the side effects studied.
NOW, that being said, MSG used as a flavor enhancer, links to a host of health issues like fibromyalgia, obesity, fatty liver, high insulin and blood sugar, high cholesterol, liver toxicity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, disturbance to the gut-brain connection, neurological and brain damage! PHEW.
MSG is well known for its flavor enhancing abilities. In fact, it’s does such a good job that since it’s a nerve stimulant, it changes how taste buds taste food. As a result, even nasty tasting food taste great.
SHOULD YOU AVOID MSG?
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to avoid; there are over 40 ingredients used by manufacturers containing MSG. Not only is it used as a flavor enhancer, it’s a natural by-product of processing proteins found in many natural and organic foods too.
So, why shouldn’t you avoid protein-rich foods like grains, meats, dairy, and vegetables that contain glutamic acid!? In these naturally-occurring foods the glutamic acid is released with other amino acids rather than in high concentrations on its own. They all work together and don’t cause a toxic reaction.
Many processed foods, including natural and organic foods, contain processed proteins with glutamic acids. The FDA doesn’t require food manufacturers to put MSG on the label unless the “added ingredient” is 99% pure MSG. If it’s produced as part of the processing you won’t see it on the label but it is still there.
HOW DO I KNOW IF IT’S IN MY FOOD?
In a Facebook post earlier this week, I listed some of the common ingredients MSG may be show up as. Here is that list again:
- Glutamic Acid
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Monopotassium Glutamate
- Calcium Glutamate
- Monoammonium Glutamate
- Magnesium Glutamate
- Natrium Glutamate
- Anything hydrolyzed
- Calcium Caseinate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Yeast Extract, Yeast Food, Yeast Nutrient, and Autolyzed Yeast
- Soy Protein Isolate, Soy Sauce, and Soy Sauce Extract
- Malt Extract
- Whey Protein Isolate
- “Seasonings” (*specific ingredients are not required to be listed as an ingredient inside an ingredient)
- “Protein Fortified”
*When manufacturers pour MSG into a product it must be listed, if it is processed into a product it does not have to be listed.
WHAT FOODS WILL MOST LIKELY CONTAIN MSG?
- Highly processed, flavorful (salty) snack food, flavored chips especially.
- Broths & Soups
- Convenience Foods
- Protein Powders: Unfortunately, many protein powders contain forms of soy and whey protein, and contain processed free glutamic acid. Since free glutamic acids are a product of processing proteins, it’s tricky to find a protein powder that doesn’t contain them. The key is the amount or concentration of these glutamates in each product, as well as gauging your own sensitivity level and ability to break them down.
LONG TERM EFFECTS?
As with just about anything, different people have different levels of sensitivity. Sensitivity builds up in our bodies until we meet a certain threshold and the danger and effects of MSG are cumulative. I started having reactions, just about all of the reactions listed above, when I worked at a Chinese food restaurant for about a year and ate the food nearly every day. My theory is it built up to a toxic level and created an on-going sensitivity to it.
Studies show no link between MSG and obesity. No earth-shattering results have been found. But, even if there isn’t a substantial connection between MSG and obesity, think of the effects of highly processed foods and the connection to overeating. There seems to be something there, don’t you think?
IS EVIL LURKING IN MY FOOD? IT’S UP TO YOU TO DECIDE.
With all this information, you see that MSG and processed free glutamate is a confusing issue. While I enjoy a delicious salty snack of chips with spicy seasonings as much as the next person, I limit myself. The problem is, once I start, it’s hard to stop and then I feel like crap. Sound familiar? Pay attention to how your body reacts to foods and if you have a reaction try eliminating or avoiding that food. If you’re eating whole, unprocessed foods you will avoid the occurrence of MSG and all its forms. In a nutshell, if you’re eating processed foods you’re most likely ingesting plenty of the stuff. And in my humble opinion — that ain’t good for anybody.
Thanks for reading along! As always, please comment and share if you are so inclined.
In Health & Happiness,