• 12May

    When it comes to offering citizens local foods, state governments show drastically different levels of commitment. While some states generate opportunities for residents to buy local foods in farmers markets and help students enjoy healthier lunches through various programs, many states lag behind this important trend.

    For the last four years, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group called Strolling for the Heifers has ranked each state and DC on their commitment to local foods. The 2015 Locavore Index places Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Massachusetts, in the top 5 while at the very bottom are Louisiana, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas.

    Analyzing the Numbers

    In order for the states to rank on their commitment to local foods, the Vermont-based food advocacy group looked at the number of farmers markets, the amount of CSAs or community supported agriculture, the number of food hubs plus the percentage of the state’s school districts that actively have a Farm-to-School program. This is all analyzed on a per capita basis and includes new information from the Census of Agriculture providing an even more detailed look into the local governments’ commitment to local food.

    Various state and federal programs are having a positive influence on the amount of local food produced and consumed. The federal Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative provides grants to help schools serve locally grown foods plus helps promote farmers’ markets. Many states also have similar initiatives which help local farmers get the support they need to provide healthier and more wholesome food to local residents on a sustainable and consistent basis.

    Governments Save Money by Improving Diets

    The health of residents is a top priority for local governments. When the population is healthier, costs are reduced and people are happier. Since the medical cost of obesity costs America $147 billion each year, finding a solution that helps improve people’s diets can have a huge impact on budgets and the community.

    Investing in local food can also create a positive economic impact for the state. When state governments purchase foods for schools, jails, day cares, or even the vending machines on government properties, they have a choice of buying local. When they buy local, the state government strengthens the local food chain networks bringing jobs and more income to the area.

    Research also shows that when residents get access to local foods, they often have more appealing and fresher options. Since the produce did not travel far it retains more nutrients and gives the local residents better sources of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, if an imported food source undergoes a shortage or disaster, strong local food systems can give residents security and continued access to fresh foods.

    Why the Government Stopped Buying Local

    Throughout the last century, there have been several government bills that essentially industrialized the production of food in America. In the beginning of the last century, the USDA introduced a grading system which reduced the amount of spoiled food arriving in distant markets, but also reduced the amount of ripe produce available in the local stores.

    After World War II, the Farm Bill aimed to provide high quality food at a low cost for Americans. The objective was achieved but decimated the local and fresh food network chains. In order to scale food production and get lower prices, local fruit, poultry, dairy farms, and meat processing centers were replaced with large centralized facilities. When the amount of disposable income spent on food is compared from 1946 to 2008, the goal of providing cheap food was certainly achieved. Americans spent 21.6% of their disposable income on food in 1946 and only 9.6% in 2008. But at what cost?

    While prices were lowered and food production was revved up, the local farmers who produce fresh, nutritious foods struggled to compete. But now as local governments aim to enhance their local food networks by increasing their commitment to local foods, a resurgence is coming.

    Benefits of Locally Grown Food

    As local governments continue to face health and economic problems, buying local food provides a strong solution. Not only will local populations get access to fresher produce, the farmers and those part of the supply chain will experience economic growth. This will lead to more local jobs and a boost in the economy.

    Although local foods are not synonymous with sustainable foods, supporting the production and sale of foods locally will reduce the environmental impact of transporting the goods. Additionally, local governments should continue to support farmers’ markets and sustainable solutions that can not only strengthen the local community but offer health and economic benefits.

    Do you feel the government is committed to local foods? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

  • 25Apr

    If you’re the grocery shopper in your house, it’s hard to ignore the growing section of yogurt in the dairy aisle. Growing in popularity, yogurt options have exploded in the last several years. Full of protein, calcium, and probiotics, yogurt represents an awesome superfood! We’ve heard about the health benefits of yogurt for years, but few people fully understand why this creamy snack is so good for us. Take a look at why yogurt is a great part of a healthy, balanced diet.

    Calcium and Vitamin D

    It’s no secret that calcium and Vitamin D play an extremely important role in bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis. There is some research to support the theory that calcium is a key component in developing or maintaining bone mass and that Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium by our bodies. The consumption of both nutrients together is believed to be beneficial to skeletal health. And, both of these nutrients can be found in many types of yogurts. As you know, yogurt is a dairy product and as such contains a significant amount of calcium. As with many dairy products, there are a lot of yogurts on the market that are fortified with Vitamin D. Yoplait prides itself on offering one of the highest daily value percentages of Vitamin D (20% DV) when compared to other yogurts (10% DV). Other yogurts fortified with Vitamin D include Breyers, Dannon, and Stoneyfield Farm.

    Great Source of Protein

    You may have noticed the recent push towards Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a thicker type yogurt and is often referred to as yogurt cheese. This yogurt starts the same as regular yogurt, but undergoes a process to strain and remove its way. Greek yogurt offers more protein than traditional yogurt as well as fewer carbohydrates. This makes it a great choice for vegetarians or individuals on a Mediterranean or low-carb diet. Traditional yogurt contains protein as well, just not as much as Greek yogurt. Protein is essential to our body’s ability to build muscle and burn fat. Traditional and Greek yogurt are great protein boosters!

    Probiotics and Gut Health

    Perhaps the biggest attraction to yogurt is for its profound ability to impact the health of our gut. The gut represents all of your gastrointestinal organs; colon, stomach, bowels, etc. The healthy functioning of the gut requires a delicate balance of good bacteria. There are a lot of elements that may impact the balance of bacteria in the gut; use of antibiotics, chronic illness, and a poor diet to name a few. When the bacteria flora in the gut becomes unbalanced the body can experience a host of negative symptoms; digestive issues, mental issues, vitamin deficiencies, immune deficiency and more. Yogurt with active cultures represents one way of adding good bacteria to the gut to support it’s healthy functioning.

    One of the most popular yogurts known for its ability to balance the gut flora is Activia. Activia contains the bacteria Bifidus Regularis, which represents a probiotic beneficial to the gut. Research has shown this specific probiotic culture to be able to travel through the digestive track and help regulate the digestive system.  On the contrary, Yoplait adds Lactobacillus acidophilus as an additional probiotic. Only yogurts containing active cultures will have the necessary probiotics to aid the digestive system.

    Weight Loss and Satiety

    Many people consider yogurt to be a “diet” food. Many brands of yogurt feature a “light” or “fit” offering that contains the same amount of protein but with fewer calories. These types of yogurts support weight loss because they keep people full longer. Contrarily, the full-fat yogurts contain protein but may also contain nearly double the amount of calories when compared to the light versions. If you’re looking to yogurt to help you lose weight, be sure to read the nutrition labels. It’s certainly not a magic fix to weight loss and should accompany a balanced diet and exercise program.

    Wrap Up

    Yogurt represents a very nutritious snack and fits well as part of a well-balanced diet. Full of calcium and many yogurts fortified with Vitamin D provide great support for the body’s skeletal heath. High protein, particularly seen with Green yogurt, aids the body in the building of muscle and the burning of fat. High protein, low-calorie yogurts are a great option for individuals looking to lose weight while not feeling hungry all of the time. Yogurt with active cultures is extremely beneficial to the balancing of healthy bacteria in the digestive system. The digestive system is center to the body’s health; it is responsible for the absorption of essential nutrients. Yogurt supports a healthy digestive system. There are a lot of options on the market today and yogurt can be found in tons of different flavors. With the numerous health benefits and tasty options, yogurt should become a daily snack!

  • 22Feb

    Organic foods and organic farming have become a topic of interest, especially in the last few years. For a long time organic products could only be found in health food stores. Now their presence alongside your favorite products in the grocery stores is resulting in a host of questions as well as some confusion. It’s important to understand what organically grown foods are and why they are beneficial to our health.

    Organic foods are those that are grown with organic farming methods. These methods are focused on conserving soil and water as well as reducing pollution. Organic farmers don’t use the conventional methods of fertilizing and controlling weeds and pests. This is a much more natural method of farming.

    In conventional farming, very often dairy cows are injected with hormones to keep them producing milk after a calf is born. Chickens are sometimes injected with growth hormones. Hormones injected into livestock often make their way back to the humans consuming the livestock or its products (eggs, milk, cheese, etc.). This excess hormone intake may be related to hormonal imbalances that can contribute to a host of problems including PMS, PMDD and polycystic ovary syndrome.

    Antibiotics are used excessively in conventionally raised livestock. This is to prevent the spread of illness or infection in the livestock. The important thing to recognize is that these antibiotics also make their way back to the humans consuming them. This can result in the development of bacteria and illnesses that are resistant to antibiotics.

    Pesticides are used in conventional farming methods to kill weeds as well as insects and pests that threaten the plants. These pesticides can be poisonous to humans causing a host of health problems including respiratory issues and possibly contributing to the occurrence of cancer.

    Genetically modified foods are those that have been genetically altered in some way to enhance the growth of the plant or its hardiness to outside factors.

    Organically grown livestock are raised without the antibiotics and hormones used in conventionally grown livestock. Organically grown produce is farmed without the use of fertilizers and pesticides and are not genetically modified. Organic foods have been proven to contain higher percentages of nutrients and represents a more natural and healthy source of food.

    The Dirty Dozen Plus

    Some produce and other foods are exposed to higher levels of pesticides when conventionally grown. These are especially important to purchase organic.

    The “dirty dozen” represents the twelve produce items that contain the highest levels of pesticides. These are fruits and veggies that you should always buy organic.

    The Dirty Dozen includes: Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.

    The “plus” produce of the “dirty dozen plus” are hot peppers and domestically grown blueberries. These two are especially concerning because they may contain organophosphate insecticides which are highly toxic.

    The produce in the category of “dirty dozen plus” should always be purchased organic to avoid the high levels of pesticides that can be found in them.

    Packaged Foods to Always Purchase Organic

    Popcorn: Have you ever thought about where the corn from your microwave bag of popcorn comes from? Unfortunately around 88% of corn grown in the US is genetically engineered and farmed conventionally meaning that it can contain a host of dangerous chemicals. Organic popping corn is much healthier alternative to microwave popcorn.

    Bread: Many people associate organic foods with fruits and veggies. Believe it or not, it’s just as good of an idea to purchase organic bread! The elements used to make bread’ wheat, rye, and barley are often sprayed with an insecticide called malathion. Malathion is also used to kill head lice and fleas. It’s not something you want to eat in your toast!

    Canola Oil: Canola oil is one of the first ingredients in many salad dressings. And, 90% of canola in the United States is genetically modified. It is often sprayed with heavier pesticides as it has been genetically modified to be hardier to these chemicals.

    Cereal: Breakfast cereals contain a host of ingredients likely to be genetically modified; wheat, corn, corn syrup, sugar and canola oil. Even natural cereals are not necessarily organic. Be cautious in purchasing any cereal that is not deemed organic.

    Ketchup: Ketchup remains one of the most popularly used condiments. Made from tomatoes that have a high likelihood of being exposed to pesticides, non-organic ketchup likely contains pesticides itself. Purchasing organic ketchup not only prevents your exposure to these chemicals, but is more nutritional than conventional ketchup.

    Wrap Up

    Buying organic foods is a great way to ensure the health and wellness of your family. You can reduce exposure to toxic chemicals, hormones and antibiotics as well as consume a more nutritious product when purchasing organic. If you’re not quite ready to make the full leap to eating all organic, at least take into consideration the foods that contain the highest levels of pesticides and genetic modification. Use the information above to make educated decisions about what you feed yourself and your family.

  • 17Feb

    Spirulina: what are the health benefits of this supplement?

    Spirulina is also known as blue-green algae and can be found growing in many bodies of water; both fresh water and salt water. Deep green in color, Spirulina was once classified as a plant because of its heavy pigment. It may sound less than appetizing but this superfood packs quite the nutritional punch. Used for medicinal purposes for centuries, Spirulina has been identified to treat a host of illnesses as well as a preventative supplement.

    Blue-green algae is recognized by the Federal Drug Administration for containing large amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and iron. Not only that, it is heavy in amino acids and proteins.

    There is research to support the use of Spirulina as an antioxidant. One study in particular found that 45% of individuals studied with known oral cancer, who used Spirulina daily, found complete regression of their oral lesions. It also contains several compounds that are known to help athletes recover from muscle fatigue; phycocyanins, tocopherols and beta-carotene. Another study found that runners who took Spirulina were able to improve their exercise performance. This improvement in exercise performance is attributed to the effects of Spirulina on improving muscle fatigue and recovery.

    Spirulina supplements

    While there is research to support the use of Spirulina in the treatment of oral cancer and muscle fatigue, there is little scientific evidence to support its use in the treatment of other illness. Research is still in progress but there are indications that Spirulina could be useful in treating the following; allergies, tics, fatigue, diabetes, hepatitis c, high cholesterol, malnutrition, menopausal symptoms, weight loss, PMS, immunity issues, depression, anxiety, memory, heart conditions and to aid in healing. Research is in progress to assess the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial capabilities of the supplement.

    Spirulina is heavy in nutrients beneficial to the body; iron, vitamin b’s, C’s as well as components like potassium and magnesium. It contains a large amount of protein and amino acids. A natural supplement, derived from blue-green algae, Spirulina is a great addition to a healthy and organic diet. Organic eating can improve the overall functioning of the body. Most Spirulina supplements on the market are all natural and organic. Talk to your health care provider if you are thinking about adding this superfood to your nutritional regimen.

  • 04Feb

    Aside from being a unique grocery store Lincon Wood Produce also provides information from all over the world to meet the expectations of customers and to ensure their trust.  The topics we write about offer a broad group from Genetically modified foods (GMO’s) meats, baked goods, fruits, vegetables and grocery items.  The products combined with our informative topics will make for an unforgettable reading experience!