Can Fast Food be Sustainable?

Chipotle’s ambitious initiative to embrace and invest in the future of food through its $100 million Cultivate Next venture fund demonstrates a forward-thinking approach to the customer experience and increases access to real food.

“Our decision to double our commitment to our Cultivate Next venture fund is a clear indicator that we are investing in the right companies that we can learn from and utilize to improve the human experience of our restaurant teams, farmers, and suppliers,” said Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer, Chipotle. Garner continues:

“The parallel growth of Chipotle and our partners will continue to further our mission to Cultivate a Better World by increasing access to real food.”

Technologies in play

The significant investments in the fund include Hyphen. The Hyphen robot represents a joint venture between Chipotle and Hyphen, aiming to revolutionize how Chipotle prepares its bowls and salads. These menu items, which form a large chunk of Chipotle’s online orders, are assembled with the help of an automated system that accurately dispenses ingredients into dishes as they move along a lower conveyor belt.

This innovative approach is designed to boost order preparation speed and precision, freeing staff members to dedicate more time to customer interactions and other essential duties. Currently under evaluation, this technological enhancement seeks to refine Chipotle’s digital service capabilities and elevate the overall dining experience for its customers.

Another fund component is an investment in GreenField Robotics, which is revolutionizing farming practices with its innovative approach to regenerative agriculture. The company leverages artificial intelligence, robotics, and sophisticated sensors, to deploy autonomous robots that manage weeds in crop fields without harmful chemicals.

These robots are designed to operate day and night, navigating between rows of crops to target and remove weeds precisely, thus significantly reducing the reliance on traditional herbicides. This method supports the health of the soil and the ecosystem and presents a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to conventional farming methods.

Nitricity is another component of the innovation investment. Nitricity is a company that produces nitrogen fertilizers through a sustainable and innovative process. This process involves creating “artificial lightning” to break down nitrogen from the air, which is then combined with rainwater to form nitrate, a natural fertilizer. This method is inspired by the natural process where lightning breaks atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates that nourish the soil.

Nitricity’s approach aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional nitrogen fertilizer production methods, such as the Haber-Bosch process, which is energy-intensive and relies heavily on fossil fuels. The investment aligns with Chipotle’s sustainability goals and commitment to enhancing food integrity throughout its supply chain.

By incorporating Nitricity’s climate-smart fertilizer into its agricultural practices, Chipotle aims to support more sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices.

The Meati Foods investment enhances Chipotle’s menu with sustainable plant-based protein options that are aligned with its Food with Integrity standards. Using a fermentation-based process, Meati develops alternative proteins derived from mushroom roots, specifically mycelium. This method results in products that mimic chicken and steak in texture, flavor, high protein, high fiber, and no cholesterol.

Cultivated indoors, Meati Foods ensures its products are grown clean and free from common agricultural contaminants. Through the “Eat Meati” brand, the company is committed to offering nutritious, whole-food options that are environmentally friendly.

Zero Acre Farms is a food company focused on healthy, sustainable oils and fats that is on a mission to end the food industry’s dependence on vegetable oils. The company has introduced a new category of healthy oils and fats made by fermentation that are more environmentally friendly. Chipotle is in the early trials of testing Zero Acre Farms at its Cultivate Center test kitchen in Irvine, California.

Industry Players Invest in Fast Food’s Future

Several other fast-food companies invest significantly in food innovations, leveraging technology to address global challenges such as food security, affordability, and safety. These companies are exploring various technologies, including artificial intelligence, robotics, sustainable packaging, plant-based alternatives, and blockchain for supply chain transparency.

Here’s a list of notable players alongside Chipotle that are actively investing in the future of food:

  • McDonald’s is incorporating AI learning into its operations, making strides in the alternative packaging space, providing plant-based options, and investing in improved supply chain technologies—all ways that they are investing in and prioritizing health and sustainability.
  • KFC is experimenting with 3D bioprinting technology to create lab-grown chicken nuggets to offer more sustainable and ethical meat options.
  • Domino’s Pizza uses drones and autonomous vehicles to reduce delivery times and costs.
  • Burger King focuses on sustainability through initiatives like reducing greenhouse gas emissions and offering plant-based burger options like the Impossible Whopper, made from soy leghemoglobin, the same ingredient in the Impossible Burger, to cater to a broader range of dietary preferences.
  • Starbucks invests in sustainable practices, including efforts to reduce waste and water use. It is also exploring plant-based menu items to provide more environmentally friendly and healthier options.
  • Wendy’s utilizes food safety and quality assurance technology, implementing advanced tracking and monitoring systems in its supply chain.
  • Taco Bell is innovating its menu to include vegetarian and low-impact food options, aiming to make the fast-food industry more inclusive and sustainable.

Impact of Innovations on Food System

Why should we care about the investments these companies are making? The impact spreads far beyond the decision of “what’s for lunch today” and will untimely touch our children’s and their children’s lives.

Food Security: Innovations, especially in plant-based proteins and lab-grown meats, can significantly contribute to food security by providing alternative sources of nutrition, ensuring a stable food supply in the face of growing global demand and environmental challenges.

Affordability: Automation and AI in food preparation and delivery can lower operational costs, potentially making food more affordable for consumers. These companies can offer competitive pricing while maintaining quality by optimizing supply chains and reducing waste through better inventory management.

Safety: Technological advancements such as blockchain for transparent supply chains and AI for monitoring food quality can enhance food safety. These technologies allow for better tracking of ingredients from farm to table, ensuring that food meets health standards and reducing the risk of contamination and foodborne illnesses.

Answering a Call-to-Action by Consumers

These investments also answer a call from consumers, who, in recent years, have put the majority of the onus on food companies to lead the way for positive change. Today’s consumers are increasingly conscious of their food choices’ health, environmental, and social impacts. This heightened awareness drives demand for healthier, more sustainable, affordable food options. Consequently, consumers rely on food companies to make significant investments and changes to meet these expectations.

Consumers are seeking convenient, nutritious options tailored to various dietary needs, such as low-calorie, low-fat, plant-based, and allergen-free options. They expect food companies to innovate to reduce the use of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and high sugars and fats without compromising taste or affordability.

There’s also a growing demand for food produced in an environmentally friendly and ethically responsible manner. Consumers are looking for companies that invest in sustainable agriculture practices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize water usage, and ensure animal welfare. They are also increasingly interested in local sourcing and reducing food miles. Moreover, sustainable packaging solutions to reduce plastic waste are critical to consumer choices.

While consumers strongly desire healthier and more sustainable food options, they also demand affordability. The challenge for food companies is to balance the cost of implementing innovative and sustainable practices with the need to keep prices accessible to a broad audience. This requires efficient production and distribution practices and, sometimes, rethinking entire supply chains to maintain competitive pricing.

To build and maintain consumer trust, food companies must be transparent about their practices, including sourcing, ingredient lists, nutritional information, and environmental impacts. Technology, such as blockchain, often facilitates this transparency by tracing the journey of food from farm to table, assuring consumers of the quality and safety of their food.

In response to these consumer expectations, food companies increasingly invest in research and development to create new products that meet these criteria. Companies like Chipotle are adopting innovative technologies to improve food production efficiency, exploring alternative ingredients to make their products healthier and more sustainable, and reevaluating their supply chains to increase transparency and reduce environmental impact.

These investments are not only a response to consumer demand but also an acknowledgment of food companies’ role in addressing global challenges like climate change, health issues, and food security. By aligning their strategies with consumer expectations, food companies can ensure long-term viability and contribute to a more sustainable and healthy food system.

Why are foods with sugar & fat so irresistible?

You know those moments when you’re faced with a gooey chocolate chip cookie or a crispy slice of bacon, and it feels like your brain is staging a full-blown rebellion against your dieting efforts? Well, it turns out there’s some fascinating science behind why these irresistible foods have a hypnotic hold over us.

Picture your brain as a bustling city with a network of roads. Now, imagine the flow of traffic on these roads is the signals sent by your gut, specifically, the vagus nerve. This nerve is like the messenger between your tummy and your brain, and its job is to tell your brain what’s going on in your belly.

For the longest time, scientists were like detectives trying to crack the case of why we’re so drawn to unhealthy foods. They were on a mission to discover the secret behind our food cravings. But the real puzzle was this: why do our brains go crazy over fats and sugars, especially when they team up in delightful duos like donuts or cookies?

What does new research reveal?

In the February 2024 issue of the Monell Chemical Senses Center‘s Cell Metabolism Journal, a team of scientists unraveled this culinary enigma. They discovered that it all starts in our gut, not in our taste buds.

You see, there are dedicated pathways in our vagus nerve for various things, including a pathway for fats and another for sugars, that act like separate lanes on that culinary highway we talked about. When you munch on something fatty, the fat pathway lights up like a neon sign in Las Vegas, and when you indulge in something sweet, the sugar pathway does a little happy dance.

Now, here’s where it gets even more interesting. Imagine these pathways as two separate party invitations: one for fats and another for sugars. When you’re at a party, you’re having fun, right? Well, our brain is no different. It enjoys these food parties, too. But here’s the kicker – when you combine fats and sugars, it’s like sending out a double invitation to the brain’s ultimate party central.

These two pathways join forces, and your brain responds with a surge of dopamine, the pleasure chemical, making you want more of that irresistible combo.

So, what does all of this mean for your eating habits? Well, your brain can be secretly wired to seek out these high-fat, high-sugar combos, even when you’re consciously trying stay away from these foods.

 

It’s like your gut has a sneaky food agenda, and it’s operating undercover.

But don’t despair! There’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The scientists behind this discovery believe that understanding this gut-brain connection could lead to some pretty cool strategies and treatments. By tinkering with these pathways, we might have a shot at making healthier food choices, even in the face of those devilishly tempting treats.

So, the next time you find yourself eyeing that mouthwatering chocolate cake, remember: it’s not just about will power; it’s a brain party happening on a microscopic level. And while the battle between your taste buds and your brain rages on, science is on the case, working to help you make healthier choices without sacrificing all the delicious fun.

Issues with overindulging

Overindulging in foods rich in sugar and unhealthy fats can have serious health consequences. One of the most immediate risks is weight gain, as these foods are often calorie-dense.

Weight gain can contribute to obesity, a significant risk factor for various health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

Liver health can be compromised by high sugar intake, particularly fructose found in common sweeteners like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. This can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which may progress to more severe liver problems.

Mental health can also be impacted, as sugar and fat-rich diets can cause mood swings, irritability, and even symptoms of depression.

Inflammation is another concern associated with these diets, contributing to conditions like arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and a heightened risk of certain cancers.

Dental health is affected by excess sugar consumption, as it provides a breeding ground for bacteria in the mouth that produce acids, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.

Additionally, excessive sugar intake can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, potentially leading to digestive problems.

Tips to combat The Urge

While the scientific discoveries about our brain’s response to fats and sugars are fascinating, you don’t have to surrender to your cravings. Here are some practical tips to help you combat the effects of these food temptations:

Be Mindful of Portions

  • Instead of completely avoiding your favorite treats, practice portion control. Enjoy a small piece of that chocolate or a single bite of your favorite high-fat snack. Savor the flavor without going overboard.

Diversify Your Diet

  • Make sure your meals are balanced and include a variety of foods. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your daily meals. This can help reduce the intensity of your cravings for high-fat, high-sugar items.

Stay Hydrated

  • Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Before reaching for that sugary or fatty snack, have a glass of water. Staying hydrated can help reduce cravings.

Plan Your Indulgences

  • Designate specific times or days when you’ll allow yourself to enjoy your favorite treats. Knowing that you have a treat coming up can make it easier to resist spontaneous cravings.

Keep Temptations Out of Sight

  • If you have a weakness for certain foods, try not to keep them readily accessible at home or in your workspace. Out of sight, out of mind!

Get Moving

  • Exercise can boost your mood and reduce cravings. So, when you’re hit with a craving, take a brisk walk or do a quick workout to distract your mind.

Mindful Eating

  • Pay attention to what you’re eating and savor every bite. Eating mindfully can help you enjoy your meals more fully and prevent overindulgence.

Healthy Alternatives

  • Seek out healthier alternatives to satisfy your cravings. For example, if you’re craving something sweet, opt for fresh fruit or a small piece of dark chocolate. If you’re craving something savory, try air-popped popcorn instead of chips.

Seek Support

  • If you find it challenging to control your cravings, consider seeking support from a registered dietitian, therapist, or support group. They can provide strategies and encouragement tailored to your specific needs.

Remember, you’re not alone in facing these cravings, and it’s entirely possible to make healthier choices without depriving yourself completely. By incorporating these tips and staying mindful of your eating habits, you can combat the effects of the brain’s love for fats and sugars while still enjoying the pleasures of good food. It’s all about finding that tasty balance!

Could Ozempic Ignite Food’s Healthier Future?

Today, the weight loss drugs highlight a consumer movement against processed and ultra-processed foods. These foods have added ingredients such as sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and artificial colors that provide no nutritional value…except great taste.

Eaten as an indulgence, they are not terrible. But, unfortunately, many people indulge in these treats as a dietary staple.

The Search for Nutrition

Consumers today are looking for nutritious foods. Foods that not only treat existing diseases but prevent ones from appearing. Foods that help you manage your health and help you age gracefully, with ‘food as medicine’  the sought-after goal.

Innova Market Insights identified nutritional value and balanced nutrition, along with naturalness are important for consumers.

Ingredients containing protein, Omega-3, fiber, vitamins, prebiotics, probiotics, and even esoteric mushrooms such as ashwagandha and lion’s mane are high in demand. Mintel also identified a changing attitude toward extending life in good health.

How GLP-1 Drugs Affect Our Diet

Further fueling demand for a healthier, more nutritious diet are among those taking a new class of prescription drugs: GLP-1 agonists. These medications, like Ozempic and Wegovy, help lower blood sugar levels and promote weight loss.

Morgan Stanley’s research survey of 300 patients taking a GLP-1 agonist found that these drugs reduced their daily appetite by 20-30 percent. They lost their appetite for candy, sugary drinks, and baked goods, creating room for adding healthy foods to their diet.

Especially as those on the GLP-1 drugs are not that hungry and might not meet the full 2,000-calorie minimal daily requirement, it is essential that what they do eat in a day provides their full complement of minerals and vitamins.

As the obesity epidemic continues to rise, so will the associated health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and fatty liver disease.

Today, about 69 percent, or 178 million adults, are either overweight or obese. Adult obesity is at 42.4 percent and is expected to climb to 50 percent in just six years.

GLP-1 drugs seem to hold the answer to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Morgan Stanley estimated that 7 percent of the U.S. population will be take GLP-1 medications by 2035. This equates to a potential $44 billion market by 2030.

Will Food Sales Decline? 

Grocers and consumer products companies worry about the future if more and more people are cutting 20-30% of their calories out of their diet.

In the fall of 2023, Walmart announced that it had seen a slight drop in food demand due to appetite-suppressing medications. It might be too soon to tell given that there is such a small percentage of the population on these weight loss programs, but as the numbers increase, how will CPG companies prepare?

However, CPG companies and grocers can benefit from this trend; consumers don’t have to be hurt by purchasing less food. Of course, if everyone ate more fruits and vegetables and fewer cookies, then obesity would not be an issue.

At D2D, we have written about changing one’s diet, but it is hard. What you eat is what you crave. Can anything be done to meet our nutritional needs while sating our  tastebuds?

How about a Healthy Oreo?

There are over 14 unique Oreos to choose from, with ‘Double Stuff’ being our favorite, mostly because it is reminiscent of our childhood.

But sadly, there is no benefit to eating these every day. Despite their great taste, they have no nutritional value, 12 grams of sugar, and 150 calories for just two cookies. They would be considered an indulgence and not a ‘food’.

What if the Oreo had the same basic ingredients but with added health benefits?

What if the creamy filling included Omega 3s for heart health, and fiber in the cookie for lowering cholesterol, aiding gut health, and reducing the risk of heart disease? Some vitamins like D3 could be added as an extra immune benefit. Instead of sugar, there could be stevia to keep the taste.

The mouthfeel and taste that any saturated fat provides could be replaced by an alternative fat from a plant oil called Epogee.

To be fair, in 2021, Mondelez did try to launch the Oreo Zero in China. Instead of sugar, they used sucrose and glucose, which gave a different taste from the original Oreo. They chose China because those consumers like less sugar in their snacks. Needless to say, it was not a success. Some of you readers might remember the backlash against the ‘New Coke’ in 1985. A change in the 99-year formula was a complete flop because Coca-Cola lovers liked the ‘Real Thing’.

How can CPG Companies Benefit? 

But are CPG companies ready to make such big changes? Already, many are starting to address their concerns about the potential for declining food consumption.

According to Food Dive, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have introduced small cans in response to consumers cutting back on sugar. Also, snack companies have created 100-calorie small snacks. Some have reduced salt and others have reformulated their products for added nutrition. But is it the right answer?

CPG companies have a range of opportunities to create healthier products. These changes can have meaningful impacts on consumer health.

How can the pharmaceutical industry influence the snack industry?

Healthier Product Formulations:

  • CPG companies can reformulate existing snacks to align with healthier profiles. For instance, reducing added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium content.
  • Whole grains, fiber, and protein can be added in to create more satisfying and nutritious snacks.
  • CPG companies can focus on nutrient-dense options that provide sustained energy.

Functional Ingredients:

  • Incorporating functional ingredients like prebiotics, probiotics, Omega-3, turmeric, and additional antioxidants can enhance the nutritional value of snacks.
  • GLP-1 users may want to seek snacks that support gut health and overall well-being.

Portion Control and Mindful Snacking:

  • Ozempic’s appetite-suppressing effects may encourage consumers to eat smaller portions.
  • CPG companies can develop snack packs with smaller, healthier portions, promoting mindful eating.
  • GLP-1’s impact on cravings could lead to decreased consumption of empty-calorie snacks (e.g., sugary treats).

Marketing Strategies:

  • Highlighting diabetes-friendly, weight-conscious, or blood sugar-friendly snacks can resonate with GLP-1 users.
  • Transparent labeling and clear health benefits can attract health-conscious consumers.

Collaboration with Healthcare Professionals:

  • CPG companies can collaborate with healthcare providers to educate consumers about healthier snack choices.
  • Ozempic users may appreciate guidance on suitable snacks to complement their treatment.

Are we what we eat? A Netflix film thinks so…

Netflix’s “You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment,” directed by the acclaimed Louie Psihoyos, presents a look at the effects of diet on health through the unique lens of an 8-week ‘controlled’ study by Stanford University. The documentary series, released in January 2024, unfolds the intriguing findings from an experiment involving 22 sets of genetically identical twins.

The overarching message of the series is that ‘meat is bad for you, and plants are good for you’, as is seemingly made evident by Dr. Christopher D. Gardner, Ph.D., the study’s author and principal investigator. However, a closer examination of the study uncovers limitations and concerns.

The study’s premise was straightforward: each twin was assigned a different diet—one vegan, one omnivore—both seemingly balanced and nutritious. Initially, the twins received pre-prepared meals to ensure dietary adherence, followed by a transition to self-prepared meals for practical application. Commentators then chime in to provide additional insights based on their expertise, including NYC Mayor Eric Adams, Senator Cory Booker, Dr. Michael Greger, and Marion Nestle.

Considering Overall Health

We agree that a diet rich in fresh produce and limited in red meat is certainly the way to go!

But before you jump into all vegan diet, consider some of the drawbacks and how to manage them.  This film entices you to become a vegan because the twin that eliminated meat showed significant outcomes: a 10% to 15% decrease in LDL cholesterol, a 25% reduction in insulin levels, and a 3% weight loss—all achieved through whole, plant-based foods without any animal products. Conversely, those on the omnivore diet showed no significant health benefits.

While the vegan group experienced positive changes in their LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and weight loss, they also had negative changes in HDL cholesterol (the good one) and triglycerides (bad fat).  High triglycerides may contribute to the hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery wall, therefore, contributing to heart disease.

Furthermore, the oversight of potential risks associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency in the documentary is a significant concern. Vegetarians need to take a B12 supplement to make sure they have enough of this crucial nutrient for their overall health, particularly for the proper functioning of our nervous system and the production of red blood cells.

Additionally, the documentary‘s observation that the weight loss in the vegan group primarily consisted of muscle loss raises concerns about the impact of unbalanced weight loss strategies.

Losing muscle mass during weight loss is generally undesirable because muscle tissue plays a crucial role in metabolism, physical strength, and overall well-being.

Muscles help burn calories and support daily activities, and their loss can lead to a decrease in metabolic rate, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

Another noteworthy concern is its feasibility as a long-term diet. Most participants in this study reported lower dietary satisfaction with a vegan diet suggests that long-term adherence to such a diet may be challenging for many individuals. This aspect challenges the feasibility and practicality of adopting a vegan lifestyle for a substantial portion of the population.

If you’re interested in adopting a better way of eating that eschews the potential bias, the study’s limitations, potential deficiency risks, and the challenges associated with long-term dietary adherence, consider The Mediterranean Diet. This tried and true eating style has the most peer-reviewed research showing its positive effects towards living a long and healthful life.

And should you want your diet to factor in particular health concerns, consider researching epigenetics. This is the study of how your behaviors and your environment can cause changes in how your body reads your DNA.

Ideological Issues

There are plenty of healthy vegans, so that is not the issue.  It seems as though those affiliated with the documentary is using diet to make a political stance on meat.

This becomes evident when we consider the affiliations of Dr. Gardner one of the study authors, who is connected to Beyond Meat, a prominent producer of plant-based meat alternatives. While financial conflicts of interest were disclosed in the study, there is also a strong conviction in promoting a plant-based diet.

The film also focuses on animal welfare concerns associated with meat production but fails to address issues related to growing our food.  Every single bite we take has its own, including labor issues, pesticide concerns, and water usage, to name a few.

By solely emphasizing animal rights, the documentary neglects broader ethical and environmental considerations in our food system that span to crops and plant-based diet foodstuffs as well.  This documentary falls into the same category as so many others.

Not The First…and Certainly Not The Last

Consumers are often drawn to exciting and visually compelling documentaries about food, especially when they promise groundbreaking revelations about nutrition and health.

These documentaries can be engaging, emotionally charged, and persuasive, making them highly effective in shaping public opinion. However, it’s important for consumers to recognize that these films are often crafted with a specific agenda or perspective in mind and overlook some core components.

While documentaries can provide valuable insights into various aspects of our food system, they should not be the sole source of information when it comes to making important dietary decisions. Here’s why consumers should exercise caution and seek factual resources for nutrition information:

To make informed decisions about nutrition, consumers should seek out a variety of reputable, evidence-based resources. These can include peer-reviewed scientific journals, registered dietitians or nutritionists, government health agencies, and academic institutions specializing in nutrition and health research.

By consulting a range of sources and critically evaluating information, consumers can make dietary choices that are based on a well-rounded understanding of nutrition rather than being swayed solely by the excitement of a compelling documentary.

Wine Market Remains Robust in 2023

The popularity of wine today – and throughout recorded history – has never been in doubt. Water occupies a special and ubiquitous place in the beverage world, obviously. Collectively, we may drink more tea and coffee than wine, and beer certainly has to be considered among the most popular alcoholic drinks.

But even with a long list of beverage options available to us, wine retains a certain cachet – of good taste, sophistication, education, and much more that sets wine apart – and to many, above all other available beverage choices.

Many of us enjoy a glass or two – at home with dinner, in nice restaurants to commemorate occasions large and small, to mark celebrations at the holidays or any of life’s milestones.

Wine is the common bond at social events and friendly get-togethers. It’s a near-universal part of diets and lifestyle across virtually every country on earth.

Wine weaves its way through our history in all sorts of ways. The production of alcoholic beverages dates back more than 9,000 years, surpassing the 5,000 or so years of actual recorded history.

Evidence of mead-making – one of the earliest forms of wine, made from water, honey, and sometimes fruits and spices – can be traced back almost 4,000 years – as much as 14 centuries before the construction of Egypt’s Great Pyramid. It was possible it was even carried in animal skins but the first evidence was in clay jars and amphorae.

The Global Wine Market: Big & Bold

We’ve come a long way from those early days of animal skins in the beverage industry. Today, the global wine industry is a $340 billion enterprise, and Americans can be proud of doing their fair share to keep the industry not just alive but healthy, too. And we have lovely glass bottles to admire while we drink.

We spend about $50 billion yearly on over 840 million gallons of various types of wine. Industry experts say we will remain thirsty, too – with the industry growing to about $456 billion before the end of the decade.

The rest of the world does its part, too.

Wine industry experts estimate 2022 global wine production at roughly 260 million hectoliters – or roughly 6,869,000,000 gallons. That’s down from a peak of 295 million hectoliters in 2018, but the long-term production trend remains fairly stable in the 26-265 million hectoliter range.

Heat and dry conditions in some major wine-producing countries have contributed to declining productivity. But wine aficionados also report good quality in 2022. We’re in no danger of running out of wine, folks.

France and Italy once again jockey for the top spot in the production derby. However, 29 countries around the globe merit recognition as significant wine producers.

But let’s make our look at wine a bit more personal. What do all those numbers mean for the average consumer?

The world produces enough wine to provide every adult (over the age of 15, anyway) with about 1.1 gallons. But certain countries lead the way in per-person consumption – with European nations capturing eight of the top ten spots on the per-person wine consumption list. Only Australia and Argentina are the other two.

The United States clocks in at a respectable number 16 on the per-person consumption roster – but thanks to our large total population win the top spot in overall global wine consumption. That is, individually, we may not drink as much wine as residents of some European countries, but we make up for it collectively. Go, team!

Wine Varieties

The different types of wines produced around the world boggle the average person’s mind. In simplest terms, wine can be either red or white – and everything in between.

But after that, it all starts to get complicated – very complicated.

The most popular types of wines can be summarized in some simple graphics, courtesy of Wine Folly.

But if you want to better appreciate why the wine industry has grown to have a value of almost a third of a trillion dollars, consider a more sophisticated and complex picture of the types of wines available to the discerning oenophile.

There is something for every taste, for every preference, and for every budget.

For instance, a 73-year-old bottle of French burgundy sold at a 2018 Sotheby’s auction for $558,000. A ‘good’ bottle of red table wine can be purchased for about 10 Euros (or $11).

For a deeper dive into the amazingly diverse world of wine, visit sites such as WineCountry.com for an excellent overview and learning guide.

Wine’s Health Considerations

The apostle Paul offered some sage advice to his colleague Timothy in the first century AD. Don’t drink only water. Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake and for your frequent infirmities.

Wine advocates love the apostle’s endorsement and cite the health benefits of responsible wine consumption. But they also acknowledge that too much of anything is no doubt dangerous. It may be sugary drinks, candy, junk food and fried foods, or any of a long list of food and beverage choices available to consumers worldwide. And wine is no exception.

Health experts caution against over-consumption and the serious adverse effects on long-term health that come with it. Some advocate total avoidance of alcoholic beverages as the best insurance against such risks. Others favor simple moderation based on certain health benefits associated with moderate consumption.

In particular, they note the antioxidants in wine can reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, with resulting benefits to cardiovascular health. Used in moderation, some health officials also say, wine may have mental health benefits, reducing the risk of depression.

But again, the key is moderation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines recommend one drink per day for men and two per day for women – with a “drink” of wine defined as five fluid ounces.

Speaking of wine, did you know…

  • Beer may be the preferred alcoholic beverage for males (with wine second choice), but for women the favorite is wine.
  • Red wine is the preferred wine choice overallAnd according to 2019 National Wine Day, red wine lovers are more likely to be introverted, to love dogs more than cats, be fans of jazz music, describe themselves as adventurous and spend more per bottle of wine.
  • White wine lovers are more likely to be night owls, to be extroverted, prefer cats, listen to jazz, describe themselves as curious perfectionists and spend less per bottle.
  • Statista reports that almost 7.3 million hectares globally are devoted to vineyards. Wheat – the most widely planted crop worldwide – claims 217 million hectares.

Haricots Verts with Ginger & Pecans

A Bright, New Twist on Green Beans

Lisa Fielding, D2D’s contributing chef, recommends Team D2D and all our readers to immediately exchange that tired green bean casserole for this bright, complex dish that triumphs over its soggy cousin. And we couldn’t agree more.

Consider this as a worthy accompaniment to your Thanksgiving turkey, or as a bed under a grilled salmon filet. No matter how you prepare it, you won’t be disappointed.

Want to dig deeper into this recipe to learn how foods like these are a part of our bigger food system? We’ve got something for everyone!

Haricots Verts in Browned Butter with Caramelized Ginger & Pecans

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. haricot verts, trimmed and washed
  • 1 inch knob of fresh ginger peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1/3 cup pecan pieces toasted in a skillet for 2 minutes
  • 1 stick salted high quality butter

Instructions:

  • Prepare an ice bath. Either steam or blanch haricot verts until tender but still snap when broken in two. Steam will take around 3 minutes. Blanching in boiling water around 90 seconds. Place in ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  • Melt butter in a skillet over a low heat. You don’t want to the butter to brown quickly. Toss in ginger and cook over low heat until matchsticks turn golden and crispy. Butter will brown simultaneously.
  • Remove haricot verts from ice bath and toss in a kitchen towel until completely dry. Toss with ginger butter and pecans. Platter and serve.

Hungry for more knowledge?

Click on the posts below to sate your curiosity about where our food comes from. And click here for more of our tried-and-true recipes. Bon appetit!

The Ultimate Cocktail Cookie

Calling All Mad Party Hosts!

Lisa Fielding, D2D’s contributing chef, has been making Dorie Greenspan’s famous savory cocktail cookies for years and have typically followed her recipes to the letter. And why not? She’s amazing.

As Lisa says, “The cookies are essentially a shortbread batter elevated with sweet and savory ingredients that produce the most tantalizing bouchée which, after just one bite will transport you to a state of food nirvana.”

But never satisfied to leave well enough alone, Lisa was curious what would happen if she adapted the recipe to include apricots to the savory recipe and add a whole egg instead of egg yolks to plump up the cookie and bind it better when baked through.

Turns out she was right on all counts. This sweet and savory version will add a patina of sophistication to your next cocktail party.

Want to dig deeper into this recipe to learn how foods like these are a part of our bigger food system? We’ve got something for everyone!

The Ultimate Cocktail Cookie

Yields 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup whole dried apricots, softened in boiling water for ten minutes and then chopped
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (additional flour for rolling and cutting)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Add the whole almonds to a food processor and pulse to the consistency of grainy flour. Add the rosemary and sugar and pulse until completely combined. Now add the chopped apricots and pulse until they are well integrated. Add the flour and pulse into a fine grainy mixture.
  • Now add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and pulse until large clumps of dough form.
  • Flour your work surface. Transfer the dough and press into a disc. Lightly flour the disc and with a rolling pin very gently roll into a larger circle until the dough is 1/2″ thick.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out cookies as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden; you may need to spin the sheet half way through if your oven cooks unevenly. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pro tip: Want to make this ahead?
The rolled-out cookie dough can be wrapped in plastic and kept frozen for 2 weeks. Then bake cookies as instructed above.

Hungry for more knowledge?

Click on the posts below to sate your curiosity about where our food comes from. And click here for more of our tried-and-true recipes. Bon appetit!

Classic Cheesecloth Turkey

A Traditional Turkey, but Elevated…

This roasted turkey is the go-to recipe for D2D’s contributing chef, Lisa Fielding…and for good reason. And she follows this beautiful bird up with her extraordinary pumpkin pie cheesecake.

Scroll down for instructions and enjoy 🙂

Want to dig deeper into this recipe to learn how foods like these are a part of our bigger food system? We’ve got something for everyone!

Lisa’s Classic Cheesecloth Turkey

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey (14 to 16 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 celery ribs, quartered
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, quartered
  • 1 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 cups white wine

Gravy

  • 2 to 3 cups chicken broth
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325°. Remove giblets from turkey; cover and refrigerate for gravy. Pat turkey dry; place breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine softened butter, thyme and sage. With fingers, carefully loosen skin from turkey breast; rub butter mixture under skin. Sprinkle salt and pepper over turkey and inside cavity; fill cavity with celery, onion and carrot.
  • In a large saucepan, melt cubed butter; stir in wine. Saturate a four-layered 17-in. square of cheesecloth in butter mixture; drape over turkey. Bake turkey, uncovered, 3 hours; baste with wine mixture every 30 minutes, keeping cheesecloth moist at all times.
  • Remove and discard cheesecloth. Bake turkey until a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 170°-175°, basting occasionally with pan drippings, 45 minutes to 1-1/4 hours longer. (Cover loosely with foil if turkey browns too quickly.)
  • Remove turkey to a serving platter; cover and let stand 20 minutes before carving. Discard vegetables from cavity. Pour drippings and loosened brown bits into a measuring cup. Skim fat, reserving 1/3 cup. Add enough broth to remaining drippings to measure 4 cups.
  • In a saucepan, melt a few tablespoons butter and add flour to make a roux. Cook for one minute and add broth all at once whisking until incorporated. Simmer for five minutes stirring constantly until thickened. Use this as your gravy.

Hungry for more knowledge? Click on the posts below to sate your curiosity about where our food comes from. And click here for more of our tried-and-true recipes. Bon appetit!

Lisa’s Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

Pumpkin Pie + Cheesecake = Heaven

Dirt to Dinner’s contributing chef, Lisa Fielding, depends on this Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake to keep the Thanksgiving vibes going strong after her delicious cheesecloth turkey has been gobbled up.

Consider pairing this cheesecake with a fun and festive cocktail to make the day even more scrumptious.

Scroll down for instructions and enjoy 🙂

Want to dig deeper into this recipe to learn how foods like these are a part of our bigger food system? We’ve got something for everyone!

Lisa’s Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients

Graham cracker crust:

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (12 full sheets of grahams processed in the food processor until very fine)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp salted butter melted

Pumpkin cheesecake filling:

  • 24 oz cream cheese room temperature (three, 8 oz packages)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup sour cream room temperature
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 3 Tbps flour

Instructions

  • Butter and flour the sides of a 9” spring form pan. Line the outside, bottom of the pan completely with heavy-duty foil so no water can leak into the pan from the water bath. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the graham cracker crust:

  • In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter and stir until combined.
  • Pour the crust mixture into the prepared springform, pressing it down into the bottom of the dish and halfway up the sides.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes, then remove the crust from the oven and set aside to slightly cool.

Make the pumpkin cheesecake filling:

  • While the crust is baking make the filling.
  • In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, beat together the cream cheese and brown sugar until light and fluffy and there are no lumps.
  • Add pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, sea salt and sour cream and beat until just combined.
  • Add eggs, one at a time and beat after each addition.
  • Gently stir in flour.

Prepare a water bath:

  • Find a large pan (baking pan, cast iron skillet, fry pan, etc) that will fit your springform pan and put it in the preheated oven. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.

Bake:

  • Pour the filling over the baked and slightly cooled crust.Place the springform pan in the large pan in the preheated oven. Slowly fill the large pan with boiling water until it is halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.
  • Bake in the water bath for 50-55 minutes or until the top and edges are set but not browned and the pumpkin cheesecake is only very slightly jiggly. You can test it by inserting a knife or cake tester in the center of the cake and if it comes out clean you know it is done. However, this can cause the pumpkin cheesecake to crack so I don’t really recommend it (but it’s better than a soupy cheesecake if you’re unsure).
  • Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and set on a wire cooling rack to cool to room temperature. Once at room temperature, transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Hungry for more knowledge? Click on the posts below to sate your curiosity about where our food comes from. And click here for more of our tried-and-true recipes. Bon appetit!

The Ins & Outs of Mushroom Products

Mushrooms have been enjoyed for ages, not just because they’re delicious, but also for their amazing health perks! Recent studies have shown that mushrooms are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and special compounds that are great for your overall health.

As people become more curious about these advantages, mushroom supplements have popped up as a handy way to tap into their potential, making it easier to reap the benefits without relying solely on eating them.

Nutritional Benefits of Mushrooms

We at Dirt to Dinner have tried a variety of mushroom powders and supplements. We love sources that have proven cognitive and immune benefits but we always want to know that our sources are the best.

Mushrooms are a natural source of essential nutrients such as B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid), minerals (potassium, copper, selenium), and dietary fiber. They also contain unique bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, β-glucans, ergosterol (a precursor of vitamin D), and various polyphenols. These compounds have been linked to immune system modulation, antioxidant activity, and potential anti-inflammatory effects.

Mushroom varieties like Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) have been extensively studied for their health-promoting properties. Shiitake, for instance, contains lentinan, a polysaccharide with immunomodulatory effects. Reishi mushrooms are known for their triterpenoids, which exhibit potential antitumor and anti-inflammatory activities.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is another medicinal mushroom with a unique appearance, resembling cascading white icicles. Beyond its culinary uses, Lion’s Mane has gained attention for its potential health benefits, particularly in the realm of cognitive health and neurological well-being. It contains bioactive compounds, including erinacines and hericenones, that have shown neuroprotective effects and the ability to support brain health.

Lions Mane can also stimulate Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which contributes to nerve cell maintenance and repair. It can help form new neurons, combat cognitive decline, and enhance memory and attention—truly incredible cognitive benefits!

Mushroom Supplements & Benefits

Back in February of this year, market reports had some exciting news. The global functional mushroom market, which covers everything from mushroom-based foods and drinks to supplements, was valued at a whopping $50.3 billion! And guess what? It’s still on the rise!

Now, let’s talk about the real heroes here – mushroom supplements. They’re all the rage! There are lots of brands out there crafting these powerhouse formulations, making it super easy to bring the magic of mushrooms into your daily routine. They come in all sorts of forms like powders, extracts, capsules, and tinctures. It’s like a mushroom smorgasbord. 

These supplement folks make a big deal about specific compounds like β-glucans, polysaccharides, or triterpenoids because they’re like the secret sauce behind the potential health perks. But here’s the real question: how can we be sure we’re getting a top-notch product? Is it just about the formulation or are there other considerations?

Here are some key factors to consider when assessing supplement quality and ensuring the authenticity:

Ingredient Transparency:

  • Reputable manufacturers should clearly list the mushroom species used and the active compounds present in their products. Generic terms like “mushroom extract” or “mushroom blend” without specifying the species should be approached with caution.
  • Each mushroom species has a scientific name that consists of two parts: the genus and the species. For example, Lion’s Mane’s scientific name is Hericium erinaceus. Verify that the scientific names of the mushrooms are provided on the label to ensure accurate identification.
  • Country origin should also be listed on their label, as some regions are known for producing high-quality mushrooms due to optimal growing conditions and cultivation practices- those include Japan, the U.S., Canada, Korea, Netherlands, Poland, and Germany.

Testing for Active Compounds:

  • High-quality, reputable supplements undergo testing to verify the presence and concentration of specific bioactive compounds, such as beta-glucans or triterpenoids, which contribute to the mushroom’s health benefits.
  • The label should indicate the concentration or standardized amount of these compounds. Avoid anything with “proprietary blends” as they may hide specific ingredients.

Third-Party Verification:

  • There are three main third-party verifiers,  The United States Pharmacopeia (USP), The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and ConsumerLab. Be sure to research the brand to ensure it has obtained certifications from one of these independent organizations that ensure potency, authenticity and quality.
  • If you’re still uncertain about a product’s authenticity, consider consulting healthcare professionals or experts who specialize in herbal or nutritional supplements. They can provide guidance based on their expertise and knowledge.

What do the Experts Say?

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We had a chance to talk to executives with MUD WTR, a mushroom coffee substitute brand that broke into the market and has gained a lot of attention. They had a lot to say about ‘shrooms!

We asked their take on third-party verifications, they noted that these can be prohibitively expense to obtain. Most reputable mushroom companies, with sound sources, transparency with their growth methods, and formulations are just as good as those who jumped through hoops to get the certifications.

That said, MUD WTR is committed to transparency, even working to add a nutrient label to their packaging so consumers know just how much of each nutrient they are getting! So, if you are looking for other great mushroom brands, if you don’t see a certification, be sure to look on their sites for transparency with sourcing and growing methods.

Other experts, Paul Stamets and Steve Farrar, two trailblazing mycologists in the fascinating world of mushrooms, have left an indelible mark and played a significant role in shaping the strategies of numerous mushroom brands. Their expertise and insights have been a guiding light for brands as they develop their mushroom-based products.

While Paul Stamets and Steve Farrar may have slightly differing perspectives on certain mushroom-related matters, there’s one critical point on which they find common ground: sourcing.

Stamets and Farrar’s resounding advice is to stick with mushrooms cultivated in the United States.

This approach not only supports local agriculture, but also prioritizes safety and product quality. 

How are mushrooms grown?

Mushroom cultivation is a complex process that significantly influences their nutritional content. An intricate interplay of factors, such as the growing medium, ambient conditions, and light exposure, collectively shapes the mushrooms’ nutritional composition. Some mushroom species, such as reishi and shiitake, possess compounds with immune-enhancing attributes. Recognizing the nuances of cultivation practices empowers consumers to make informed choices about the mushrooms they consume. Debatably, the substrate in which they were grown is the most critical factor in their nutrient density.

Hence the importance of sourcing and transparency- to understand the conditions of which the mushrooms are grown. Reputable mushrooms brands will share their sourcing on their sites so you can check to make sure they are US grown.  Most brands chose to grown their mushrooms on oats, as they provide the most nutrient density to the fruiting portion of the mushroom.

Check out these brands, who either hold the third-party certifications and/or are committed to transparency around sourcing and growing:

  • OM Mushrooms: Sourced in the US, this brand also has the BRC AA Rating, a coveted food safety rating. About halfway down this page you will see the section- “Growth Medium Matters” where the brand details that these mushrooms are grown on oats!
  • Host Defense: Host Defense is founded by Paul Stamets, a renowned mycologist. They produce a variety of mushroom supplements made from organically grown mushrooms. Their commitment to quality and sustainability is notable. Check out their R&D page, which details some of the 77 studies he has co-authored and applied sciences to his formulations.
  • Four Sigmatic: Check out the video on this page– where they discuss using the fruiting body, meaning they use no mycelium or filler grains, they use third party labs to test for toxins like heavy metals and mycotoxins as I mentioned previously, which is a real concern.
  • Pure Essence Labs: While not exclusively a mushroom supplement brand, Pure Essence Labs includes mushrooms in some of their formulations, emphasizing their health benefits alongside other nutrients. They explain at the bottom of the linked page what they are grown on—rice or barley!

Knowing how much mushroom product is in each of these supplements can be a challenge. Thankfully, Pure Essence Labs provides an example to calculate the volume of mushrooms present in your supplements:

Product A: MyPure™ Cordyceps – 500 mg of cordyceps 1:1 extract

  1. Multiply the first number of the extract ratio by 10. (e.g., 1 x 10 = 10)
  2. Multiply the amounts of each extract present by the numbers derived from step one. (e.g., 500 mg x 10 = 5,000 mg)

Product B: MyPure™ Cordyceps 4X – 300 mg of cordyceps 1:1 extract and 200 mg of 10:1 extract

  1. Multiply the first number of the extract ratio by 10. (e.g., 1 x 10 = 10 and 10 x 10 = 100)
  2. Multiply the amounts of each extract present by the numbers derived from step one. (e.g., [300 mg x 10 = 3,000 mg] + [200 mg x 100 = 20,000 mg] = 23,000 mg)

By following these steps and practicing due diligence, you can make more informed decisions when choosing mushroom supplements and ensure that you’re getting authentic and high-quality ingredients.

Grilled Corn Salad with Tarragon

 

This delicious Grilled Corn Salad with Tarragon recipe will enhance any summertime main dish with its refreshing crunch and zip! Best complimented by our cedar-planked salmon or your favorite grilled chicken recipe. Scroll down for instructions and enjoy 🙂

Want to dig deeper into this recipe to learn how foods like these are a part of our bigger food system? We’ve got something for everyone!

Grilled Corn Salad with Tarragon Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ears of corn cleaned
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ C. chopped red onion
  • 3 tbls. minced tarragon
  • Juice of one lime
  • 4 tbls. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt

Instructions:

  • While your grill heats up, mix lime juice, olive oil and salt together
  • Brush corn with mixture
  • Grill corn turning often until some parts are blackened for a total of 4 minutes
  • Set corn aside to cool
  • Once cool, cut kernels from the cob and place in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, onions and tarragon. Dress with dressing listed below.

Dressing (optional):

  • 1/3 C. olive oil
  • Juice of one half lemon
  • 1 tbl. honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix honey and lemon juice and then emulsify with olive oil. Pour over corn salad and gently
toss. Chill an hour before serving.

Hungry for more knowledge? Click on the posts below to sate your curiosity about where our food comes from. And click here for more of our tried-and-true recipes. Bon appetit!

How Much Protein Should We Eat?

protein shake with almonds

A case study in how much protein is enough

Take, for instance, Patrick and Cynthia. Patrick’s day consisted of sitting at his desk at work, working on his computer, and then coming home to relax on his couch with some TV shows. He rarely engages in any physical activity or exercise except for an after-dinner stroll with his wife.

Patrick’s protein needs are usually calculated based on his body weight, which is 195 pounds. His recommended daily protein intake is  0.35g per pound of body weight, which amounts to approximately 70g of protein per day. This amount of protein is enough to meet Patrick’s minimum physiological protein needs and support his lifestyle.

On the other side of the spectrum is an athletic individual named Cynthia. Cynthia is gearing up for a marathon while weightlifting and doing high-intensity intervals as part of her training.

How much protein does Cynthia need each day? Based on her body weight of 154 pounds and intense level of activity, her recommended daily protein intake is about o.73g per lb., which amounts to approximately 112g of protein per day. This is necessary because her body needs more protein to repair and build muscle tissue, support her high-intensity workouts, and recover faster.

Body weight & lifestyle factors

Most of us fall in between Cynthia and Patrick. We exercise between 30-60 minutes a day, and it can range from yoga and walking to lifting weights and high-intensity cardio. Our protein intake depends on our lifestyle and energy needs.

The American College of Sports Medicine indicates that anywhere from 10-35% of the average American’s diet should contain proteins. In terms of bodyweight, this means a recreational athlete weighing 150 pounds should strive for between 75-90 grams per day.

Of course, if you exercise more, you can increase your protein consumption— but you don’t need to overdo it! If you are eating protein with the hopes of building muscle, the quality, quantity, and timing of consumption is more important than the overall amount you eat.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating 20-30 grams of complete protein within 2 hours of exercise.

Which protein sources are best?

When eating protein, you want to make sure it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Eggs, milk, and lean beef are high-quality proteins that are easily digestible. For instance, one large egg contains around 6 grams of protein.

Turkey, chicken, and fish are also a good source of protein. 3 oz. of chicken or fish contains anywhere from 19-24 grams of protein.

Dairy is another great source of protein: a 5.3 oz container of plain Greek yogurt contains 15 grams of protein. A cup of milk has roughly 8 grams of protein and an ounce of cheese contains 7 grams of protein.

Legumes have protein, too! A cup of lentils contains roughly 16 grams of protein. Including a variety of vegetable protein sources in your diet is also a good strategy to ensure you’re getting a range of nutrients.

But let’s say you are the average athlete, and you weigh 150 pounds and need about 75-90 grams of protein. In one day, if you ate:

  • 1 cup of oatmeal (10g of protein)
  • two eggs (12 g)
  • 6 oz of chicken (42g)
  • ½ cup of lentils (8g)
  • 1 cup of black beans (15g)

…you would have consumed 87 grams of protein.

But honestly, that is a lot of food. Plus, you need to add in more fruits and vegetables and some carbs. So, it is tempting to throw in some protein powder on your oatmeal in the morning or eat a protein bar as an afternoon snack.

What about protein supplements?

Are protein products, like shakes, powders, and bars, part of your daily routine? The protein supplement market has been rapidly expanding, with the industry fueled by factors such as the aging population, fitness trends, growing interests in plant-based protein supplements, and accessibility to e-commerce. There is also a continuous interest in self-care, contributing to the growth of this industry.

The question of whether protein supplements are good for you depends on various factors, including your dietary needs, health status, and lifestyle. Of course, like any change in your diet, it is best to ask your doctor.

However, EatingWell suggests that high-quality, third-party tested protein powders with minimal sugar and no harmful additives can be a healthy choice. As we age, we lose muscle, and boosting our protein intake may help increase strength and lean body mass, especially if you have a restricted diet.

Medical News Today also shares research suggesting that protein supplements significantly improve muscle size and strength in healthy adults who perform resistance-based exercise training.

Protein powder considerations

However, it’s important to consider the quality control of protein supplements. As per a review published on Human Kinetics, safety assessments are crucial, especially given the potential addition of cheaper ingredients to increase total protein content.

According to Harvard Health, protein powder supplements can harbor health risks and are recommended only for certain conditions, such as impaired appetite or wounds. You should make sure that the protein powder is ‘clean’ and does not have unnecessary additives. NIH published a study indicating that some protein powder supplements can have heavy metals.

Lastly, online sales of protein supplements have increased, indicating a shift in how consumers purchase these products. However, this also highlights the need for further education on potential health risks from unregulated protein supplements, as stated in a study on Wiley Online Library.

Can you consume too much protein?

You might not need your morning protein shake as much as you think. Of course, like anything else, too much of a good thing is just…too much.

Cleveland Clinic stresses that aside from bad breath, too much protein can overstress your kidneys causing kidney damage, digestive problems, and dehydration. It is always important to drink enough water to make sure your kidneys function well.

MDPI suggests the following:

“…Instead of adding protein and amino acid supplements to high-protein diets, protein should be preferably received from whole foods, such as fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and cereals, along with fibers and other food components supporting the well-being of both the host and their gut microbiota.

This should be highlighted in the nutritional plans of athletes, sportspeople, as well as more sedentary populations.

Protein supplements can certainly be a healthy addition to your diet, but they’re not for everyone. These supplements are often utilized by athletes and those with specific dietary requirements who may struggle to meet their protein needs through food alone.

So, while protein supplements can be beneficial for some, they should be used wisely and under the guidance of a healthcare or nutritional professional.

Cedar Plank Chili & Rosemary Salmon

This delicious cedar-planked salmon recipe is perfect for summer grilling.

Cook up some fresh asparagus, add fresh-squeezed lemon, a sprinkling of olive oil, and a sprig of rosemary, and voila! You’ll have yourself a bistro-worthy creation to enjoy al fresco!

Quick note: be sure to budget enough time beforehand to thoroughly soak the planks…otherwise, you’ll have a fish flambé on your hands!

Scroll down for instructions and enjoy 🙂

Want to dig deeper into this recipe to learn how foods like these are a part of our bigger food system? We’ve got something for everyone!

Cedar Plank Chili & Rosemary Salmon Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. salmon filet
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Soak cedar plank according to instructions
  • Combine dry ingredients and rub on top of filet
  • Place filet on plank and let rest for 30 mins
  • Heat grill to 400F and place plank on indirect heat
  • Close grill and let cook for 15-18 mins., until internal temperature reaches 165F
  • Garnish with rosemary sprigs and lemon slices

Hungry for more knowledge? Click on the posts below to sate your curiosity about where our food comes from. And click here for more of our tried-and-true recipes. Bon appetit!

Can sugar be healthy? Yes!


Bonumose creates delicious, rare sugars that are affordable and healthy. Bonumose has a mindset of “business as a moral imperative” to make a lasting positive effect on the world.

How Sweet it Is!

Tagatose is a rare sugar that not only tastes sweet but has multiple health benefits, such as fiber and prebiotics. It doesn’t affect one’s glycemic index and has fewer calories than regular cane sugar. Because it has the same characteristics as sugar, it can be used in baked goods, sports drinks, candy, ice cream, protein bars, the list goes on to include anything that uses regular sugar.

Join us as we talk to Ed who has 30 years of entrepreneurial business experience as a founder, investor, adviser, and lawyer. Before co-founding Bonumose, he practiced law for 11 years, co-founded an animal food technology company, and designed and implemented a grant-funded venture investment endowment for a foundation in rural Virginia. He has a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Virginia.

At the recent Tagatose production kickoff event, the Bonumose team invited Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin to help scoop the first ceremonial spoonful of tagatose. It was wonderful to see the standing room-only crowd, including investors iSelect Fund, ASR Group, The Hershey Company, Applied Food Sciences, Ed Williams, and our friends from Japan. Read the full press release here.

Milk: Should you go ‘alternative’?


On the run? LISTEN to our post!

Take a stroll down the dairy aisle in just about any grocery store, or pop into your favorite coffee shop, and you are sure to see a variety of alternative milks and non-dairy competitors piquing your interest. Whether you are vegan, lactose intolerant, looking for more protein, a fan of a thicker, denser flavor, or seeking something lower in calories, there is certainly a corner of the cooler for you.

Milk Alternatives

The key word here is alternatives. Much like plant-based meats and other protein alternatives are not the same as traditional meats in many ways, milk alternatives are not the same as cow’s milk. And furthermore, there are vast nutritional differences between all these ‘milks’.

It seems that as our options increase, so does our confusion. Is plant milk better than animal milk? Should I avoid dairy if I’m not lactose intolerant? Is soy good or bad?  Does oat milk have too much sugar?

This milk option confusion confronted me most recently at a visit to a Vermont farmer’s market. I grabbed my canvas bag and started my stroll through the tables of fresh produce, cheese spreads, and artisan goods. I came to a booth selling freshly brewed hot and iced coffees. As I stood in line, the patron in front of me ordered her large black coffee.

As the barista was pouring her cup, the patron began to stare, noticeably confused by the milk carafes in front of her: oat milk, whole milk, and almond milk. Her expression must have read “help me!” as the woman behind the counter set her coffee down and began to explain the differences in the selections in front of her:

“Okay, so you are familiar with whole milk, right? The primary difference between dairy milk and oat milk is that oat milk provides fewer nutrients, and most of the nutrients in it are fortified, meaning that they are added during processing rather than naturally occurring.

Whole milk also has about double the protein and half the carbs compared to oat milk. That said, lots of our customers love the sweet, creamy taste of oat milk, and it’s a nice option for those who are lactose intolerant.

I typically use almond milk for cooking, as it is a good one-to-one substitute for cow’s milk. And in my coffee, almond milk is the lowest in calories of the three options here but also the lowest in protein content.”

The woman smiled and cheerfully said, “I need all the nutrients and protein I can get! Whole milk it is!” I was so enthralled by the conversation. Over the course of a few sentences, the barista concisely provided a 411 on the milk options, of which I certainly would not have been consciously aware. When she handed me my medium iced latte I smiled and poured some almond milk since I had a protein-packed breakfast.

Nutritional Comparison of Milk Alternatives

According to Statista, milk-substitute consumption worldwide has more than doubled since 2013, and the same can be said for the U.S. But what are we actually drinking when we consume more and more of these alternatives? And which nutrients are we missing?

  • Cow’s Milk comes in many forms, including whole milk, 2%, 1% and skim. Whole milk is, in fact 3.5% fat, which has a 1.5% higher fat content than its 2% “reduced fat” counterpart.. Our bodies need fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like D, A, E, and K. Additionally, it is a significant source of protein, at about 9g per cup for whole and 8g for 2%. Cows milk is also considered a “complete protein” as it contains 9 of the essential amino acids.
  • Goat Milk is the closest nutritionally to cow’s milk. Some consumers may find that they have fewer digestive issues with goat milk when compared to other non-dairy milks. This may be because goat’s milk contains shorter chain fat molecules, and higher MCTs, making it easier to digest. However, goat’s milk contains lactose, so be wary of this if you have a lactose sensitivity.
  • Soy Milk took the non-dairy scene by storm starting in the ’90s, offering a tasty alternative to cow’s milk but without any digestive drawbacks. However, since then, anti-GMO activists have vilified this milk alternative, since 90% of soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified (as we know, GMOs are safe and are the most studied seed science. Read more here).
  • Oat Milk is known for its creamy taste, high iron content, and lower cholesterol. It also contains about 3 grams of protein per eight-ounce serving and does not contain all essential amino acids. It is a nice option for those who are lactose intolerant or have a nut allergy but be mindful of your carbohydrate intake, as oat milk can contain up to 24 grams per eight-ounce serving.
  • Rice Milk may seem ideal if you are lactose intolerant or have a nut allergy, as it’s made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup, and starch. As you can imagine, those ingredients don’t exactly make for a creamy or nutrient-dense beverage, so to sweeten the taste, manufacturers typically add thickening agents, flavorings, and sweeteners like guar gum and carrageenan.
  • Almond Milk is mostly water with a blend of almonds. It is most similar to rice and soy milk in that it is less nutrient dense, containing less fat and protein than cow’s milk. Many brands promote the high nutrient levels of vitamins E, D, and calcium in almonds, but fail to address the amount of water and almonds used in manufacturing (some brands’ almond volume in its milk is as low as 2%). Instead, large amounts of water are needed.
  • Coconut Milk is one of the only alternative milks that will likely come in a can or box and can be found in full fat and reduced fat versions. Reduced fat contains more water, whereas the full fat is mainly saturated, making it suitable for cooking. A benefit of coconut milk is that it contains primarily medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can be used as quick and lasting energy!
  • Hemp Milk, made from hemp seeds and water, packs a nutritional punch that even those suffering from nut allergies can enjoy. One eight-ounce glass contains upwards of 900 milligrams of anti-inflammatory omega 3s, all nine essential amino acids, 4 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fat. It also contains a fair amount of vitamins and minerals, including A, E, B12, D, potassium, zinc, and iron.

The list of milk alternatives does not end there; there is peanut, hazelnut, flax, quinoa, pistachio, cashew, and even camel milk… yes, camel. Newest on the scene? Potato milk.

As you can see from the nutritional profiles and other considerations, no milk is created equal. Depending on your dietary needs, taste preferences, or values, be sure to also consider the recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals when making your milk selection.

Beyond Nutrients: Sustainability

We would be remiss if we did not address the environmental impacts of the various milk alternatives. There has been criticism over the impact of the dairy industry on climate change, specifically by way of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by dairy cows and cattle, but it is a complicated web.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) describes sustainable eating as “diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.”

The FAO’s definition extends beyond just greenhouse gas emissions to include land and water use, labor, nutritional value, soil health, among others.

For example, when comparing cow’s milk with soy milk, soy produces significantly fewer GHGs and uses less land and water. However, almond milk uses roughly 17 times more water than cow’s milk per liter. In fact, it can take over a gallon of water to grow one single almond, depending on the producer.

Although dairy’s average GHGs across the globe are 2.5%, U.S. dairy farmers have already cut their carbon footprint by 63% from 1944 to 2006 by utilizing regenerative practices. Repurposing manure, using anaerobic digesters for energy, recycling wastewater, and utilizing genetic breeding practices to decrease the cow population by 65% are just some of the ways these farmers have done more with fewer inputs and outputs. And all the while, they’ve continued to satisfy global demand and meet the FAO’s guidelines for sustainable development.

This, that AND the other thing

I sat down to dinner after my visit to the farmers market with a big glass of 2% milk. Yes, I had almond milk with my coffee that morning AND I had milk with my dinner. In a world that seems constantly polarizing – always having to decide between this or that – remember there is room for AND, too. With a growing population and more mouths to feed for generations to come, everyone can choose how they enjoy their alternative and traditional milk products.

Should MCT Oil be in your diet?


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MCT oil was brought to the forefront when Dave Asprey, an American entrepreneur and author, gave “Bulletproof coffee” the popular bullseye. Years ago, hiking in Tibet, he found himself consistently exhausted until a local energized him with a creamy cup of yak butter tea.

Fast forward to much research, Bulletproof Coffee was created in its likeness with MCT oil to help provide immediate energy to give a steady source of energy throughout the day. Those following the ketogenic diet are likely familiar with MCT oil. With its rapid gain in popularity comes a jump in research — here’s what you need to know!

Claims and myths: What does the science say?

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Claim #1: MCTs provide steady energy and mental clarity

As people age, brain glucose metabolism deteriorates. Since ketones can serve as an alternative fuel to glucose in brain tissues, a small subset of studies have shown that MCTs may raise plasma ketone levels, which benefit cognitive function.

While studies are still preliminary, there is early proof that ketones, or the byproduct of MCTs, can make up for a lack of glucose uptake, which naturally occurs in the brain during the aging process. This makes MCTs an area of interest surrounding treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

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Claim #2: MCTs increase performance and weight loss

When exercising, lactate levels can rise. This lactate buildup can increase the acidity of muscle cells, disrupting metabolites. Metabolites facilitate the breakdown of glucose into energy, which can affect performance. Studies have found that MCTs can help to lower lactate levels. According to one clinical trial out of Oxford Brookes University:

“These results indicate that the ingestion of MCT-containing food may suppress the utilization of carbohydrates for energy production because of increased utilization of fatty acids for generating energy…

In conclusion, our data suggest that short-term ingestion of food containing a small amount of MCT suppresses the increase in blood lactate concentration…and extends the duration of subsequent high-intensity exercise at levels higher than those achieved by ingestion of LCT-containing food.”

MCTs can help regulate our bodies’ harmful type of fat, called “white fat” or adipose fat tissue. This oil naturally has about 10% fewer calories than other common oils like olive, avocado, and nut. Also, because of its shorter fatty acid chain makeup, MCT helps increase fat oxidation, which is associated with loss of adipose fat tissue and a decrease in inflammatory markers. Lastly, MCTs have also been shown to satiate hunger which has ultimately reduced food intake, contributing to weight loss.

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Claim #3: MCTs fight infections

One of many impressive facts about MCT oils is that they act as natural antibiotics. Due to their chemical structure, MCTs are drawn and easily absorbed into most bacteria and viruses. When they enter the virus through the lipid membrane, they weaken it, eventually breaking it open to cause cell death. That is when the white blood cells quickly dispose of the remains.

Furthermore, capric and caprylic acid are two of the most active antimicrobial fatty acids. They are naturally the most potent yeast-fighting substances, and as research shows, they are one of the most beneficial antimicrobials you can take without a doctor’s prescription. Supplementary MCT oil is best taken in doses of 15 to 20 mL per meal, up to 100 mL per day.

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Claim #4: MCTs improve gut health and digestion

The ingestion of easily digestible fatty acids like MCT oils leads to increased movement in your digestive tract, thus promoting regular bowel movements. Additionally, MCTs help to improve the gut lining, a critical component of your gut’s microbiome.  It aids in increasing the permeability of the lining, which can facilitate an increase in metabolic functions.

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Claim #5: MCTs can help with hormone balance

MCTs work to provide a balance of adipose fat tissue. The dreaded “white fat” negatively affects hormone regulation, as can adipose fat levels when they’re too low. (Normal levels for women are between 3 and 8 percent, while for men, it is between 8 and 12 percent). To better understand our white fat stores, speak with your doctor, who will calculate your body mass index (BMI) and other markers and tests to estimate your levels. 

MCT oil can help with this! Because it can provide necessary fats to produce a balanced amount of fatty tissue, it also has been shown to increase the release of both peptide YY and leptin specifically—this contributes to a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, aiding people in avoiding overeating, and helping to limit too much fat tissue accumulation.

Busting MCT Myths

While the above five claims have scientific legitimacy, here are some notable myths.

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Myth: MCT oil only comes from virgin coconut oil.

Truth: Nearly all MCT oil comes from refined coconut oil and sometimes palm oil. The process of retrieving the MCTs requires refinement, bleaching, and deodorizing. All of which are safe processes and fine for ingestion.

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Myth: MCT oil is sustainable.

Truth: Yes and No. MCT oil only uses about 15% of the coconut’s oil, and not all of the residual 85% is used in other products. And while most MCT oils are derived from coconut oil, about 34% of MCT comes from palm, which has deforestation implications. However, sustainable ways to harvest palm exist, and not all palm harvesting contributes to deforestation.

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Myth: MCT oil does not need to be counted as part of your fat intake due to its benefits.

Truth: MCT oil can increase the amount of fat in your liver if not accounted for as part of your daily fat intake. Be sure to keep your total fat consumption per day between 44 and 77 grams of fat (which respect for a 2,000-calorie diet).

How is MCT made?

MCT, or Medium-chain triglycerides, is a compound made of fatty acids and fat molecules with between six and 12 carbon molecules. Alternatively, fats derived from animals and plants primarily comprise long-chain fatty acids (LCTs), which contain more than twelve carbon molecules.

But what do the molecules have to do with it? The health claims surrounding MCT oils are that they can help burn fat, boost metabolism, promote weight loss, and provide increased energy. These claims have everything to do with how MCT oils are processed in the body.

Medium-chain triglycerides behave differently in the body compared to LCTs. They are more easily absorbed in the body, as they do not require pancreatic enzymes or bile to be digested, unlike LCT. Instead, they are transported directly to the liver, which can immediately be used as energy.

MCT oil is typically derived from coconut and palm oils. It is then refined in a lab using a process called fractionation. This process extracts the medium-chain triglycerides and other fats. Once isolated, a chemical process called lipase esterification uses lipase enzymes to produce the final product.

While coconut is the primary source of commercially-produced MCT oil, MCTs are also naturally found in some full-fat dairy products, like cheese (7.3% MCT by volume), butter (6.8%), and milk (6.9%) and yogurt (6.6%).

MCT Oil Types

There are four identified types of MCT with various purposes and efficacy:

  • Caproic Acid (C6): Commonly referred to as C6 due to its 6-atom carbon backbone, is the shortest medium-chain triglyceride. This type of MCT is the rarest form of fatty acid, making up just a mere 1% of MCTs in coconut oil. That said, it is also the quickest to be converted into ketones. (Ketones are an acid released from the liver to your bloodstream that is used as fuel to drive the body’s metabolism and support muscle function.) Typically, you won’t find this fatty acid in MCT oils for direct consumer use as it has an unpleasant taste. However it is often used in cosmetics.
  • Caprylic Acid (C8): This fatty acid accounts for about 12% of MCTs in coconut oil and is the primary supplement component, as it has a neutral taste and is very efficiently metabolized.  This is a highly beneficial fatty acid, so much so that it is present in the breast milk of most mammals like humans and goats. Fun fact: the Latin word for goat is ‘capra’, the root of caprylic acid.

  • Capric Acid (C10): Making up around 9% of the MCTs derived from coconut, capric acid is also easily absorbed during the digestion process, though not as efficient as C6 or C8. It has been shown to boost immune system function and support healthy and efficient digestion. Bulletproof coffee uses this type of MCT in its keto products.
  • Lauric Acid (C12): This is the primary MCT found in coconut. While it is the slowest to metabolize, it contains the most potent antimicrobial properties—making it suitable for use in natural health products. With its higher smoke point, this MCT can be the most easily substituted for oils in cooking from being the longest of the MCT oils at 12 atoms.

How can I use MCT oil?

MCT oil comes in many forms, including oil, supplements, and powders.

You can use it for baking or frying, in smoothies or soups, or just as a topping to your favorite veggies.

I have tried Bulletproof Coffee and Sports Research MCT oil in my smoothies and have enjoyed both.

There are currently many varieties on the market, including organic versions, cold-pressed, flavored, flavorless…the list goes on.

There is a type out there for every preference.

 

How is Salt Made?

Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a household without a salt shaker, but this wasn’t always the case. Salt was scarce until the industrial revolution provided the technology to discover vast salt reserves. Salt was once used as a currency as valuable as gold – traded and fought over worldwide.

For millennia, salt represented wealth. Caribbean salt merchants stockpiled it in the basements of their homes. The Chinese, the Romans, the French, the Venetians, the Habsburgs, and numerous other governments taxed it to raise money for wars.”

Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky

Salt’s wide applications

Salt is used in thousands of ways all around the world. It is a jack of all trades that can enhance the flavor of foods in your kitchen and assist in manufacturing paper, plastics, and fertilizers. Its preservative and antimicrobial effects are significant in the food processing industry, and it has a vital role in feeding animals and plants.

The U.S. and China dominate world salt production, accounting for 40% of the 250 million tons of salt produced yearly. Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Utah made 92% of the salt in the United States in 2019. In fact, Detroit sits on one of the largest salt deposits in the world, and most of the salt used for de-icing our roadways is mined from an ancient seabed near Cleveland, 2,000 feet below Lake Erie.

Salt production methods

Whether salt is mined from ancient sea beds under the city of Detroit, the Appalachian Mountains, or the Himalayan Mountains; extracted from salt domes along the Louisiana coastline, or solar evaporated from the Atlantic or Pacific oceans – all salt comes from the sea!

But what happens next? It depends on the application and location:

  • Deep-Shaft Mining: Like mining for any other mineral, salt exists as deposits in underground ancient sea beds, typically miles long and thousands of feet deep. Most “rock salt” (used to de-ice highways and walkways) is produced this way. Take a look at this video.
  • Solution Mining: Wells, similar to oil and gas wells, are set up over salt deposits, and fresh water is injected to dissolve the salt. The brine is then pumped out and taken to a plant for evaporation.
  • Solar Evaporation: The oldest salt production method in warmer climates, salt is first captured in shallow ponds, where the wind and sun evaporate the water. The salt is then harvested either by hand or by machine.

Watch the below video that demonstrates harvesting evaporated salt in California.

 

Plant-based chicken: should you switch?


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We’ve all seen and probably tried the Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat beef burgers. Plant-based options are popping up in almost every fast-food restaurant: plant-based chorizo at Chipotle, Impossible Whoppers at Burger King, and most recently, plant-based chicken at KFC.

Let’s start with the basics – protein

Food is tasty, and we all love to eat (I know I do), but in the end, we want the nutrients in the food just as much as we want the flavor.

When I consider the benefits of chicken, the first thing that comes to mind is it’s a great source of protein. This means it has the nine amino acids profile that can fill in for the ones our body can’t make on its own.

Our bodies need 20 amino acids to break down foods, grow and repair body tissue, build muscle, boost your immune system, make hormones and brain chemicals, and give us healthy skin, hair, and nails. 

We can make 11 of these essential amino acids on our own, but we need to eat the other nine. What type of protein we eat determines if we are getting an incomplete or complete profile.

Complete proteins such as beef, poultry and eggs have all nine essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins such as nuts, seeds, beans, and grains have some amino acids but are missing some of the essential ones.

Is it worth it, then?

So, does this mean we shouldn’t eat plant-based proteins? Absolutely not. We need nuts, seeds, vegetables, and various other plant-based protein sources as part of a balanced diet.

Interestingly, soy is the primary source of protein in plant-based chicken. This is different from many plant-based beefs using pea isolates as the main source of protein. Soybeans are one of the very few plant proteins that contain all nine amino acids and are considered a complete protein. Others include brewer’s yeast, cottonseed, and the germ of grains. All of the plant-based chicken brands we listed below have the full complement of amino acids.

Let’s take a look at the nutrient profile of traditional chicken in comparison to some of the more popular plant-based chicken companies: Daring, Tofurky, No Evil, and Sweet Earth. These companies sell plant-based chicken that is not fried. There are other plant-based chicken companies, like Impossible and Beyond, but they focus on fried nuggets and patties that contain extra fat and calories.

Sources: USDA, VeganEssentials.com, Tofurky.com, NoEvilFoods.com, Goodnes.com.

What’s really in plant-based chicken?

When looking at the nutritional components above, one thing is clear: conventional chicken has the most protein out of all the options. It also has the least amount of sodium.

When buying processed food products such as these plant-based options, it’s essential to look at the product as a whole as well as each macronutrient. High sodium is often hidden in these processed foods because it makes the product more shelf-stable and taste better. The FDA recommends we limit our sodium intake to below 2,300 mg a day to decrease our chance of getting diet-related illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Let’s take a look at the differences in ingredients:

It’s obvious that there’s only one ingredient in chicken, but take a look at all of the ingredients in the plant-based alternatives. The protein source in alternative chicken is soy. But notice how seed oil appears in almost every other product.

Seed oils, like canola oil and sunflower oil, contain many omega-6 fatty acids. While not harmful to our health when consumed in the proper ratio to omega-3s, we want to limit our intake of omega 6s to between 11-22 grams a day.

It’s important to consume more omega-3 fatty acids from foods like salmon and spinach as they lower inflammation and increase blood flow. Conversely, too much omega 6 in our diet can lead to increased blood pressure, blood clots, and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Plant-based meat misconceptions abound, from nutrient profile…

So now you’re probably asking yourself, “Should I begin eating plant-based chicken?” Of course! But it’s important to call out some misconceptions regarding plant-based meat before making your decision.

The phrase “plant-based” leads consumers to assume that these products are veggie-filled, or that vegetables are the primary ingredient, similar to a veggie burger.

However, being “plant-based” does not mean full of veggies, so you’re not getting the same nutrient profile. Plant-based just refers to the protein source, whether that’s from peas or soybeans.

Other consumers switch to plant-based meat, including chicken, as part of a “clean eating” diet. The phrase refers to only consuming unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables. However, when you look at plant-based chicken or any other alternative meat, for that matter, it’s pretty hard to argue that these foods are not processed.

As a marketing strategy, many of these plant-based companies also emphasize that they are non-GMO and organic because consumers associate both these terms with a healthier food product. However, neither of those components speaks to the nutrient profile or overall health of the product. Instead, be sure to look at the nutrition label for a real determination of health — especially its sodium and fat content. And, by the way, there’s no such thing as a GMO chicken.

…To its environmental effects

Like the Impossible burger, plant-based beef caught on quickly for a few reasons, but probably the biggest one was that people believed cattle were responsible for climate change. This fad caught on quickly, giving companies like Impossible and Beyond the push they needed to really start selling. To learn more on cattle’s effect on climate change, click here.

Chicken is less criticized for contributing to climate change. Some consumers make the switch to the plant-based alternative because of animal advocacy and concern for animal rights. There are misconceptions that chickens raised on factory farms are treated inhumanely and not as living, breathing animals. It’s also believed, erroneously, that chickens are pumped with antibiotics and not allowed outside.

Which to choose? Any and all.

With all of this in mind, will plant-based chicken ever catch on? Maybe. At the end of the day, it depends on the taste! Plant-based chicken is a good alternative for those who are vegetarian or vegan, but it doesn’t pack the same punch concerning other important aspects like plant-based beef did.

Either way, there’s room for all protein sources to give all 7.9 billion people in the world their complete amino acid profile, we need all types of proteins. Personally, I tried plant-based chicken and prefer the taste and texture of the real deal.