Wild vs. Farmed Salmon

salmon swimming upstream

I traveled along the coast of Norway to visit salmon farms and see if there truly was a difference to our health and the environment between wild and farmed salmon   Before this trip, I would always purchase wild salmon over farmed. When I think of “wild caught salmon” I thought of untouched salmon leaping and splashing upstream to spawn in a clean river nestled below forested and snowcapped mountains. And while it is true that wild salmon do jump upstream—you can watch the grizzlies enjoying that—not all wild salmon are better for you and it is not necessarily better for the environment to eat wild salmon.

The general understanding of farm-raised salmon is vague because the process of farming these typically wild fish is not discussed very often. It is safe to say that the majority of salmon-eaters are not quite sure how farmed salmon are grown, bred, and harvested for food. This uncertainty often leads to fear of the unknown. You might envision a large metal holding tank filled with dirty water, chemicals, fish food residue, and packed with fish unhappily swimming in circles. Well, thankfully, this perception is not reality.

The Global Salmon Initiative

The Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) is a leadership initiative established by leading farmed salmon CEOs from around the world who share a vision of providing a healthy and sustainable source of protein to feed a growing population while minimizing their environmental footprint and continuing to improve their social contribution. (Global Salmon Initiative)

Why is salmon such a popular food?

These fish are a healthy source of protein and fatty acids. A four ounce serving of salmon contains 23 grams of protein! That is roughly 50% of your suggested daily intake of protein. Salmon is also loaded with Vitamins B-6, B-12, C, potassium, and more. Not to mention they are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help your body protect itself against heart disease, lower the levels of unhealthy blood fats (also known as triglycerides), and may reduce joint inflammation.

A 4 oz serving of salmon contains 23 grams of protein!

Where does our salmon come from?

Today, wild salmon primarily come from the rivers off the northern Pacific Ocean surrounding Alaska, Russia, and Japan. Wild Atlantic salmon also border the northern shores of the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia. These fish are born in fresh water and migrate to the ocean but return to the fresh water when they reproduce. The average wild salmon lives for about six years. This is assuming life goes well and there are no diseases, predators, extreme temperature fluctuations, or too much competition for food.

In the wild, salmon are born in fresh water and migrate to the ocean but return to the fresh water when they reproduce. Image source

After hatching, wild salmon remain in the freshwater river for roughly two to three years before they make their way to the ocean. Once in the ocean, they grow to their full size and navigate back to their stream of birth to spawn. These fish miraculously find their way home using the earth’s magnetic field and their early fish-hood smells. Some even swim over 1,000 miles to their birthplace. After they spawn, many of them die or are eaten.

Wild Caught or Farmed

The salmon on your plate is either from a wild-capture fishery or a fish farm, otherwise known as aquaculture. Capturing salmon from the wild is much more sophisticated than a few men wielding several large fishing poles.

Commercial salmon fishermen use electronic fish finders, hydraulic equipment, and large nets in order to capture the most salmon possible in a given expedition. In fact, they have been so effective that many of the wild salmon fisheries are fished out. While many salmon are coming back throughout the East Coast river system, they are still protected and are only fished as catch and release. The largest population of Atlantic Salmon can be found off the coast of Maine. As a result, salmon in the Pacific Northwest are under the watchful eye of government regulators in the United States.

As the concern over depleting our natural wild resources has increased, there has also been a substantial focus on producing farmed salmon over the last few years. Today, roughly 95% of the salmon is farmed in Norway, Chile, Scotland, and Canada. Additionally, 70% of this farmed fish are grown by only fifteen producers. Aside from carp and tilapia, salmon is the third largest aquaculture species. In 2013, global aquaculture production of fish, crustaceans, and other species totaled 97 million tons. And to put that in perspective, global cattle weighed in at 64 million tons. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “Salmon Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system in the world – accounting for 70 percent of the market. This is three times higher than it was in 1980”. Over the past 13 years, salmon production has increased by 133% to two million tons, while wild-caught salmon has decreased by 53%.

What are the benefits of farmed salmon?

Raised and harvested responsibly, farmed salmon meet all the benefits of sustainable agriculture farming: good for the environment, and good for our health. Because of the high standards most farms uphold, these farmers ensure that the entire value chain from the fish feed to the ecosystem is taken into consideration.

What are farmed salmon fed?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, “Salmon Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system in the world – accounting for 70 percent of the market. This is three times higher than it was in 1980”.

In aquacultures, the purpose of the nutrient-rich diet is to enable fish to maintain their health and reach maturity in three years. A key component in sustainable salmon farming is ensuring the amount of salmon harvested outweighs the amount of food the salmon in the farm consume. The feed to fish ration is 1:1 in farmed salmon versus 6:1 for wild salmon. One and a half pounds of food generally produces roughly a pound of salmon, as opposed to wild fish which need to eat six pounds of fish to gain one pound of weight. This is because the wild fish expend a lot of calories swimming many miles against strong currents.

Carnivorous fish, like salmon, are happy to eat – other fish. The ingredients used in fish feed have changed in recent years. Historically, the salmon feed was made up of fish meal, fish oil, and micronutrients. However, to maintain the right balance between catching fish and feeding fish today, some of the fish oil and fish meal is replaced with terrestrial raw materials such as canola, soybean oil, and vegetable protein sources. This substitution of fish oil is discussed because some people are concerned that the nutritional benefits of salmon will change.

However, even with the substitution of the marine ingredients, farmed salmon still provide more than enough omega-3 per portion. The health benefits of omega-3 capsules is yet another reason for the demand for fish oil – in fact, salmon is a much more efficient converter of omega–3 than the capsules. Luckily for all the omega-3 junkies, because of the nutrients fed to farmed fish, their omega-3 content is generally a little higher than those in the wild. So don’t be afraid of your farmed salmon dinner. It will provide you with the same health benefits as wild caught salmon.


You might be curious about the genetically engineered Aqua Advantage Salmon from AquaBounty. This is a case of taking the Atlantic salmon and inserting a growth-promoting gene from the Pacific Chinook salmon along with an ocean pout. The modified salmon will now grow year-round instead of only during the spring and summer. Market size can be reached in 16 to 18 months rather than the more typical three years. However, this fish is not yet on the market and is only grown in Panama. At the moment, the overall salmon industry is not leaping over the falls to embrace this fast-growing fish as they feel that selective breeding will ultimately produce the same result.

Do farmed salmon have more risk of disease?

Image credit: Patrick Pleul

Farmed salmon are raised in big open water netted pens about the size of a football field.

There are certainly challenges that present themselves in aquacultures, but unfortunately, there is an over-publicized fear of diseases and sea lice. It is believed that because of the threat of disease, farmed fish are given antibiotics to prevent the spread. However, antibiotics are not used in salmon farming practices! Instead of antibiotics, farmed fish are vaccinated early in their life. They are also bred to be hardy and resistant to disease. The one exception is for the bacterial disease, found only in Chile, called SRS. In response to this threat, many companies are working on launching a vaccine.

As for sea lice, while it is an issue, salmon farming has been accused of allowing sea lice infested salmon to escape and infect the wild salmon swimming nearby. The truth is that the wild cousins swimming nearby infect the farms. However, it is still an issue to manage for the farmer as well as a major consideration by consumers and NGOs alike. There are two main methods of treating sea lice. One is adding ‘pilot fish’ to the pens; they eat the sea lice off the salmon. The next is a treatment called SLICE, which is put into the fish feed to kill the lice if it is contracted. Of course, the use of SLICE is regulated and not used before the fish is harvested, thus it is not finding its way onto your dinner plate. While it is true that both sea lice and disease are enemies of farmed salmon, wild salmon are certainly not exempt either.

There are certainly challenges that present themselves in aquacultures, but unfortunately, there is an over-publicized fear of diseases.

Another fallacy of farmed salmon is that they are full of toxins, specifically polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). However, what we need to do is put wild salmon under the microscope. In fact, because wild salmon live longer and humans cannot control what these salmon eat, they often may have a higher level of unwanted substances in their system than that of a farm-raised salmon. Farmed fish have a controlled diet and life cycle and their lifespan is shorter.

If you’ve ever had a goldfish you know that the bowl can get pretty dirty and has to be cleaned regularly. Those opposed to fish farming apply the same logic to aquacultures. They argue the dirty water of the aquaculture somehow pollutes the surrounding water and transmits bacteria to humans. However, it behooves the farmer to maintain a farm with clean flowing water. Generally, the ratio is around 2.5% fish to 97.5% fresh water. If the water isn’t clean and fresh in the sea cages, the fish will become diseased, die and have to be discarded. Not the optimum result for the farmer. Additionally, the general practice is to leave the harvested pen empty for a period of three to six months to eliminate any possibility of cross-contamination.

The sophisticated technology is such that fish farmers can feed the fish exactly what they need to grow efficiently without excreting large amounts of waste into the ecosystem. This limits the possibility of excess feed spreading throughout the ecosystem as well. This also means that only a minimal amount of waste is flowing through the fish pens and spreading out to the bottom of the sea. This small amount of fish waste is actually a positive nutrient for kelp, prawns, crabs, and other sea creatures! AND in order to verify that the salmon are healthy and safe, the water inside and around the pens is frequently measured, tested, and regulated.

Sustainable Salmon = Wild and Farmed

It is important to know that not all salmon farms are created equal. So, how do you know the farmed salmon you are eating is safe and was raised sustainably? Is the salmon you eat certified to any standards?

In order to ensure that all farmed fish, and future fish, are raised in a healthy, clean manner, fifteen of the largest salmon companies from Norway, Chile, and Scotland recognized the need for a global certification process and created the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI). According to their mission statement, “the GSI is a leadership initiative by global farmed salmon producers, focused on making significant progress toward fully realizing a shared goal of providing a highly sustainable source of healthy protein to feed a growing population while minimizing our environmental footprint, and continuing to improve our social contribution.”

GSI has selected the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to monitor best practices and provide a certification label. The ASC assures you that farmed fish are raised in farms that abide by national and local laws; and that fish farmers conserve the ecosystem, protect the health of wild populations, use resources in an environmentally responsible manner, manage disease in an environmentally responsible manner, operate in a socially responsible manner, and are a good neighbor and conscientious citizen. These standards help to ensure we are getting healthy fish while promoting sustainable aquaculture.

For those of you who shop at Whole Foods, you know that they are also a proponent of farmed salmon and have their own “responsibly farmed 3rd party certification” where they partner with salmon farmers in Norway, Iceland, and Scotland.

On the other hand, how do you know that your wild salmon was caught responsibly? Have the fishermen followed the regulations on caught fish? Have they fished in areas where the fish are diminished? Is the eco-system healthy? Luckily, there are standards here too. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) “offers the world’s only wild-capture seafood certification and eco-labeling program that is consistent with international organizations.”

The 5:2 Fasting Diet

tape measure wrapped around an apple - diet

Alternate-day fasting diets, like the 5:2 diet, have become a popular way to quickly lose weight. The 5:2 diet made its way into the spotlight in 2013 when BBC aired a documentary entitled Eat, Fast & Live Longer. In this program, journalist Michael Mosley investigated the health benefits of fasting. Before attempting the various and attainable fasting methods himself, Mosley met with a series of doctors and industry professionals who assessed his current health condition. Mosley wanted to understand how to best protect himself against the negative effects of aging. From his story on alternate-day fasting, Mosley derived the 5:2 diet, which subsequently took the UK by storm.

The belief that fasting can improve your health shares similarities with the Paleo diet. Like Paleo dieters, Mosley looked to our ancestors for help when investigating fasting. When hunters and gatherers had a successful kill, they gorged themselves on the meat. This feast might last a few days and certainly was not restricted— however, if the hunters went days without a kill, they would be starved, surviving on minimal food and nutrients. Thus, our bodies are capable of functioning when we are underfed. But, bear in mind, our hunting and gathering ancestors put themselves in great peril, even wrestling mammoths to provide a feast. That is a lot of physical activity that we do not necessarily get today.

Throughout Mosley’s investigation, he interviewed a handful of researchers and specialists, one of them being Mark Mattson, an expert on the aging brain. Mattson, Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging and Professor at John Hopkins University, discussed the laboratory studies he performed regarding starvation. Based on the tests he had been conducting on mice, Mattson identified positive aspects of fasting. In one of these studies, Mattson found that when mice were given an unhealthy diet high in saturated fats and sugars, mice health declined much more rapidly, roughly 3-4 months sooner. On the other hand, mice given a diet lower in fat and subjected to intermittent fasting lived roughly 6 months longer. Thus, the mice maintaining a smaller size proved to live longer.

5:2 dieters argue that our bodies are not made to handle the modernization of food and that giving the digestive system frequent “breaks” helps to mend any issues with digestion.

Additionally, in his meeting with Mark Mattson, Michael Mosley learned that sporadic bouts of hunger help stimulate new neurons to grow in our brains. Mattson also looked to our mammoth-hunting ancestors to answer the question regarding cell growth. From a survival standpoint, hunger provides a survival advantage as it causes you to be more focused. Fasting’s effect on the brain is actually compared to exercising’s effect on your muscles…well, for mice anyway. In order to truly prove that these findings hold true for humans, human trials must be performed.

So how did this research and studies like it lead to Mosley’s famed 5:2 diet?

As Mosley attempted intermittent fasting, he realized how difficult this task is. Anyone can attest that we need food, and regularly! To accommodate this need, Mosley met with Dr. Krista Varady, author of The Every Other Day Diet and an advocate of alternate-day fasting. Like the 5:2 program, the “Every Other Day Diet” instructs participants to limit their caloric intake to 500 calories on fasting days. Although they are very similar in practice, on the “EODD” you are fasting slightly more than on the 5:2 diet. For example, one week you will fast 3 days and the next you will fast 4, then the following you are back to 3 days of fasting, and so on…

During Dr. Varady’s clinical studies of alternate-day fasting, researchers found participants decreased their levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), triglycerides (fat), and blood pressure. Surprisingly, these scientists found it actually didn’t matter if you were eating a high-fat diet versus a low-fat diet on the given feast days—the LDL cholesterol and blood pressure were relatively the same for all participants.

Because they consumed 25% of their energy needs on fasting days, Dr. Varady predicted that most participants would consume 175% of their energy needs on a “feed” day. But, throughout the course of her study, participants were only consuming 110% of their energy needs on the feed days. Inevitably, there is a -65% consumption deficit.  This tells us that starving a few days a week and then feasting on cookies, pasta, pizza, and cheeseburgers will probably help you lose weight because you are reducing your overall caloric intake. However, your body will be missing proper nutrients. Additionally, if you are exercising regularly, your energy levels may be negatively affected by the significant decrease in calories on the fast days.

While the 5:2 diet and similar programs are not sensible dieting practices, the science behind fasting is worth a second look.

While we dismiss the 5:2 diet and similar programs, like the “Every Other Day Diet”, as viable dieting practices, we acknowledge that the science behind fasting and Mark Mattson’s research is worth a second look. Scientists have found that restricting caloric intake can help to regulate your body’s blood sugar levels. Research in mice has discovered that by reducing daily caloric intake, the body lowers its production of hormone IGF-1. A drop in the creation of this hormone is known to help your body go into repair mode—meaning, the body begins to protect itself against carcinogens, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.

From his studies on mice, Mattson has also determined that “intermittent energy restriction” may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The mice Mattson studied are destined to develop the disease and by controlling their food regimen, he was able to delay the onset of the disease and keep the mice healthier for a longer period of time. In his TED talk, Mattson explained that intermittent fasting helps to stimulate the growth of cells in your brain. Why? Fasting is a challenge to your brain and your brain responds to that challenge of not having food by activating adaptive stress response pathways that help your brain cope with stress and resist disease.” (Mattson, 2014). By forcing your brain to handle stress and fight disease, Mattson believes you are increasing your brain’s productivity and potentially slowing the natural progression of aging in your brain.

In agreement with Mark Mattson, Valter Longo, a cell biologist at the University of Southern California, also pioneered studies on the health benefits of fasting. Dr. Longo put hormone IGF-1 under the microscope and was another influential resource in Michael Mosley’s special for BBC. Longo, however, does not recommend the 5:2 diet. In fact, he doesn’t recommend any fad diets. He believes in “time-restricted feeding”, which means you eat 2 meals a day between 3 and 12 hours of each other. This, he argues, will keep the effects of aging at bay. How? Through the reduction of IGF-1. According to Dr. Longo, “the reduction of IGF-1 is really key in the anti-aging effects of some of the interventions. Both the dietary ones and the genetic ones. We’ve been putting a lot of work into mutations of the growth hormone receptor that are well established now to release IGF-1 and also cause a record lifespan extension in mice” (Jones, 2014).

With no balanced diet, intermittent fasting will not help to encourage healthy eating habits.

Nutritionists argue, however, that intermittent fasting will not help to encourage healthy eating habits. Because of the structure of the 5:2 diet, or any diet where you are encouraged to eat more freely on your “food days”, the importance of balanced healthy eating is not emphasized. 

With all of the concentration on calorie restriction, we are missing the importance of healthy eating. Don’t forget, your body needs food. A balanced diet consists of roughly 2,000 calories a day, made up of 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables, roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, and 3 to 5 servings of whole grains. By fasting and feasting, you are not “tricking the system”.

Understanding the Paleo Diet

cookbook with kale on page

These days, it feels like new food trends are constantly coming to market. From juice cleansing to going gluten-free, dieters and healthy eaters alike are left wondering, “What are the smart choices for my diet and my body?” In an effort to offer some clarity and take it back to simpler times, we have chosen to examine: the Paleolithic diet.

Inspired by the foods of our ancestors.

A Paleolithic, or “Paleo,” diet is a diet inspired by the foods of our ancestors. Often called “the caveman diet,” this diet regimen focuses on a more simple call to action: clean, primal eating. The Paleo diet emphasizes the importance of the foods that our ancestors had access too, which include grass-produced meats, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, healthy oils (those of olive, avocado, coconut, etc.), and animal products, such as eggs.


The Paleo method believes that human metabolism was not made to digest today’s highly processed foods. Instead, the diet emphasizes the importance of the foods that our ancestors had access too, which include grass-produced meats, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and healthy oils (those of olive, avocado, coconut, etc.), and animal products, such as eggs.

Proponents of the Paleo diet believe the human digestive system has wrongfully adapted to eating “toxic” foods, such as grain, legumes, and dairy. Foods such as these were not available to our ancestors, thus our bodies are not designed to consume them. However, lean meats, seafood, and seasonal fruits and vegetables were the basis of a Neanderthal’s diet and our digestive system is equipped to break these foods down.

or example, while we agree that protein is a very important part of your diet, the way our ancestors consumed protein is not similar to modern practices. When our ancestors hunted and killed an animal for its meat they gorged themselves on the food for days and could go months without another successful hunt.

There are health benefits from eating whole grains.

While it is healthy to consume protein and whole fruits and veggies as the diet prescribes, there are health benefits from eating whole grain. Whole grains are high in fiber–which is good for your digestive system, are digested slowly so can keep you full for longer, and can help reduce the risk of heart disease. As for the argument that eating whole grain can cause inflammation, this is certainly true for those suffering from celiac’s disease, however, it is untrue if you have no wheat sensitivity. In fact, going gluten-free can often lead to a diet higher in sugar and saturated fats. For these reasons, we disagree with the Paleo diets requirement to cut grain completely from your diet.

There are health benefits from eating legumes.

In addition to eliminating grain, the diet recommends eliminating legumes, like lentils, beans, or peas, from your diet. The Paleo diet argues that the lectins, which is a sugar-binding protein, found in legumes eliminate their nutritional value. But this is not true! A 2013 study suggests the nutritional content of legumes outweighs the issue with lectins. The Huffington Post also reported that cooking legumes can eliminate the anti-nutrient qualities of lectins. Legumes pack a powerful punch! They are high in dietary fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals while being low in fat.

There are health benefits from drinking and eating dairy products.

Now that we’ve covered grains and legumes, let’s put dairy under the microscope. Dairy is where it gets a little trickier. Did you know that the human species is the only species that consume dairy in adulthood? This is one of the primary reasons why dairy is a strict “no” in the Paleo diet. Paleo dieters believe that by eating the food that our ancestors ate, we are eating the most natural, “untouched” foods. The milk we know today has been harvested from animals that have been bred for milk production. When we drink cow’s milk, we are ingesting the hormones that have been fed to the cow, which the Paleo diet does not condone. But—when you think about it, of course, humans are able to eat dairy into adulthood…because we can produce it.

When consumed in moderation, dairy is a good source of potassium, protein, and fat, and is important for your bone health. Many non-Paleo physicians argue that adults have no nutritional requirements for dairy. Our opinion? You do not need to eliminate the food group entirely, but you do not need to consume more than two servings of dairy per day to maintain a balanced diet. There are additional ways to get potassium, protein, and healthy fats.

In order to properly follow the Paleo diet, you must eliminate potatoes, dairy, cereal grains, salt, refined vegetable oils, and refined sugar from your diet. Eating at a restaurant is not easy!

The Modern Paleo: 85:15

Legumes, whole grains, and dairy can be consumed as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet. There are certainly some benefits to the Paleo approach, specifically that your diet is high in fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, nuts and healthy fats— but it is unnecessary to eliminate entire groups of food from your diet unless prescribed by a doctor. A modern version of the Paleo diet is the 85:15 rule. This means 85% of the time you are strictly Paleo and 15% you are allowed to consume non-Paleo foods. That way you are not completely eliminating certain beneficial food groups from your diet.

Investigating the “Natural” Label

barley field with sun setting in background

If you are unclear on what the word “natural” on your food label means, you are not alone.  We are not sure if anyone knows the true meaning of “natural”. There is a renewed consumer interest in eating only food grown from our hunting and gathering days. Is that realistic? Forget for a moment that the average life span of our Paleo cousins was about 33 years. Is your food really better if it is not made in the lab or a food ingredient facility? Is cane sugar more natural than high fructose corn syrup? Is “natural” food better for you? Consumers and even some food companies are left to their imagination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees that most food in the grocery aisle is not exactly like it was when it left the farm.  Their definition vaguely informs us of the following,

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. **


**Note: The FDA is currently in the process of reviewing the “natural” label, and has extended the comment period until May 2016. Learn more here.

There seems to be a lot of room for interpretation. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines all natural meat as “minimally processed”.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) agrees with the FDA and the USDA by saying that any product labeled as “natural” cannot contain artificial ingredients or added color and the product can only be “minimally processed”, meaning “not fundamentally altered”.

Image Source: Nolan Ryan Beef. http://nolanryanbeef.com/

Consumers want food without chemicals, synthetics, or ingredients that are considered bad for you, and “factory fear” is growing in popularity. As a result, companies are labeling their products as “natural” to distinguish their products as healthy. According to Mintel Marketing Research, the natural label market in the U.S. today is significant: 11 percent of all food sold in the grocery store.

In fact, because the word natural is so ambiguous, there have been teams of lawyers reviewing the products in your local grocery store, looking to see what is truly “natural”. Kraft was sued for false advertising over its “natural cheese” claim as the cheese had artificial coloring. General Mills, Trader Joe’s, PepsiCo, and Kashi have all settled liability suits and removed the 100% natural claim from their packaging. These class action lawsuits are trying to prove that companies are deceiving the consumer—when they might be just as confused.

So what is happening in response? Companies are now showing what is NOT in their box as a protection against lawsuits. Packaging labels such as “gluten-free”, “no High Fructose Corn Syrup”, and “GMO-free” infer that the products are healthier. But these claims can be deceptive, as there is nothing scientifically or medically wrong with GMO’s and High Fructose Corn Syrup and you only need to avoid gluten if you are celiac.

Just because some of your food is created in a lab doesn’t mean that it is filled with unhealthy ingredients. Take synthesized vitamins, for instance. Numerous studies have been done on each synthesized vitamin to make sure that the purpose of the chemically created vitamin is the same. For example, when we eat meat, we ingest Vitamin B12. B12 comes from the stomach bacteria in an animal. When B12 is created in a lab, the exact bacteria fermentation is simulated to create the identical B12 vitamin. No chemicals or dyes are made— it is created healthily. Vitamin C is made the same way, through biosynthesis, whether it is from a lab or a fruit. Fruits pull up calcium, phosphate, and nitrogen from the soil and make their vitamins. The lab just combines the same minerals and creates a synthetic vitamin. While they may not be considered “natural” they are not harmful to your body.

Natural flavorings are often looked to as an alternative. But some of them are not all that appealing. For instance, as an all-natural alternative to red color number 40, the coloring agent is crushed insects. Need lemon flavoring? It comes from grass. Or how about this one, the natural smell of raspberries could be from an unmentionable part of a beaver.

Confused about labels? Here’s what you should do.

The real questions to ask ourselves are is: Is my food healthy? Does it have lots of sugar? Where does the fat come from? Is this a one-time snack or an everyday snack? How many calories am I eating? Greek Yogurt sold with fruit is delicious, but watch out for the added 13 grams sugar— half of your daily allowance for added sugar. Pasteurized milk is not “natural” but it makes your milk safe to drink.


For example, let’s take a look at Jennie’s All Natural Coconut Macaroon cookies. Because it is a cookie, our instincts tell us that is isn’t healthy. But, when you look at the label, you find that these cookies are also Non-GMO, Wheat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Yeast Free, Sulfite Free, Soy Free, Lactose-Free and Trans Fat-Free. But does that make them GOOD for you? Not really. While they may be the lesser of all cookie evils, for just two cookies, they still have 32% of your daily saturated fat recommendation and 63% of your recommended added sugar for the day. Are those two cookies worth an additional 130 calories? Even though they are considered “natural” these cookies are certainly not a healthy snack.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to be mindful of the nutritional label versus the marketing labels.

There is no solution for inflammation comparable to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And we are certainly not proponents of the “quick fix”, particularly if there is an underlying issue that is not being addressed. However, if you are typically fairly active and a healthy eater that has indulged and looking to get back on track there are some antidotes that may help fight inflammation. Cryotherapy and baby aspirin are believed to reduce swelling.“Cryotherapy takes advantage of the body’s natural tendency to vasoconstrict (vessels tighten) when exposed to cold. This is why we apply ice to a trauma, like a swollen ankle, after hurting it. When we apply cold, the vessels tighten, which limits swelling. This is a good counter to the body’s natural tendency to swell and heat up an area of injury.” (Dr. Bongiourno) Additionally, baby aspirin is often prescribed to help reduce pain and swelling.