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Archive for December, 2010

Whether you overdid it or not, the New Year seems to spark the desire in everyone to clean up their act. But what of the cleanses we read about – are they healthy, do they work, what if I don’t have the $500 a week or more to go to one or have one delivered to my home? I hear you, so last year I developed the AKA New Year Cleanse and this year I’ve updated it. Keep in mind, I am still a fan of places like We Care or deliveries like IzoCleanse, Paleta cleanse, SoCal Cleanse, Blue Print and many others . The AKA Cleanse is a way to DIY and just because it says New Year doesn’t mean you can’t start this week or pick this up again in April – it’s a rebalancing tool. For those of you who are more visual and /or want to see specific product recommendations, watch my video on the components of the AKA Cleanse at http://fitperez.com/2010-12-26-the-411-on-cleanses/?from=PH . For product recommendations see the AKA lists at http://www.ashleykoff.com/approved/index.html


Before you begin your cleanse a few things to keep in mind:
1) This isn’t about weight loss (yes you will likely lose weight and inches) but rather setting your body up for a healthier year (and if your goal is weight loss that falls under the ‘healthier’ umbrella);
2) you HAVE to move your bowels daily – regularity is just that, meaning that you need to make sure you are not just stirring toxins up out of their resting spots but that you are actually eliminating them too – and that doesn’t mean rely on laxatives or even colonics …it means including fiber, the right kinds, and magnesium to aid motility;
3) Enter and Exit GRACEFULLY: I have blogged about this before but it deserves additional attention. The body needs to feel supported and nourished both as you enter into a cleanse and leave one – so the idea of cleansing from Christmas until New Year’s Eve then blowing it out with alcohol and food on New Year’s…very very bad idea…same goes with pre-wedding, pre-event cleanses. Give yourself at least a week between the conclusion of your cleanse and any planned event;
4) Sweating it Out: Yes you should! Whether it’s an infrared sauna, jogging with a hoodie, boxing, yoga etc you can incorporate it all into your cleanse but pay attention to your body. Make sure to hydrate and consume sufficient fuel prior to working out, during, and after. While cleansing can trigger headaches (especially if coming off caffeine), headaches are a usual sign of hydration and / or slowed motility (i.e. constipation) so follow the tips to address both and plan ahead. In terms of how much activity, that’s going to depend on your body and your normal routine as well as things like your menstrual cycle and how different the cleanse is from your norm;
5) The NO’s: It isn’t my goal to tell you what you can’t have but rather what you should have during the cleanse. The idea is that these foods and supplements will encourage detoxification and encourage renewal optimally. So you don’t see comments about caffeine, energy drinks, alcohol and sugar. My best advice is to use this as a time to “Come off” anything on which you depend or that makes you feel imbalanced.
THE AKA NEW YEAR HEALTHIER YOU CLEANSE


1. ORGANIC: this tops the list because you can’t be effective or efficient at removing toxins from the body when you are putting them right back in. Simply put, certified organic food, teas, supplements are your best bet for the least amount of residues and no additional toxins.
2. Greens / Greens Powders: whether you have them juiced, raw, sautéed, steamed make sure that greens top your list during a cleanse. Daily and several times daily, greens will help to remove toxins, provide energy, and alkalinize your lower digestive system – all ideal for optimal cleansing and health.
3. Lemons: these deserve their own bullet point because they play such a key role in cleansing. Whether it’s the juice, the skin, or both lemons will help alkalinize, transition flavor away from sweet cravings, and purify the system.
4. Hydration: true hydration is more than water. That said, you need adequate water [equation: half your body weight in pounds gives you the minimum ounces of water (160 pound person would be 80 ounces or 10 8 ounce glasses of water)] remember that water used for your protein drink or a soup or a tea counts and water-based veggies are an added bonus. But back to true hydration, you need potassium too to get the water into the cells – so choose plain coconut water as an ideal source.
5. Fiber: The right fibers like chia and flaxseeds, psyllium, rice and oat bran among others will help to pick up the toxins from your digestive tract and remove them from the body.
6. Sweet sans sugar: ideally you don’t want to have any sweets during a cleanse. This is a great way to rebalance your palate which often sways so far in the direction of sweet. That said, we don’t want to miss out on valuable antioxidants and fiber so I recommend using organic fruits (see tip #1) especially those like organic blackberries and plain acai which have little to no sugar in them.
7. Vegetarian proteins: Cleanses DO require protein. While some popular cleanses promise better results without protein they miss the boat nutritionally. Proteins are used in our hormones, for our lean body mass, and to stabilize blood sugar – a cleanse that eliminates protein threatens an imbalance of these during the cleanse and potentially thereafter. But what type of protein and how much? I recommend organic vegan sources for all (unless allergies, intolerances or other personal nutritional issues warrant otherwise). Hemp and quinoa top my list as well as other protein sources like seeds, grains, and isolated rice or pea proteins.
8. Spices: are you aware of that spices are one of your best detoxifying and supporting components of a diet. Spices help fight off bad bacteria and their other benefits range from stimulating metabolism, helping you sweat out toxins, calming the digestive tract, and oh yeah, adding flavor naturally.
9. Regularity Aids: As mentioned above, it’s imperative that you “go” regularly. Many cleanses use tools that the body can become dependent on and thus don’t encourage the body to regulate itself. Hydration, fiber and motility are the keys to regularity and thus far I’ve addressed the first two. In terms of motility, we need the mineral magnesium. Magnesium relaxes the body and helps to encourage normal and optimal motility. We get magnesium from whole grains and many vegetables but you may also benefit from a supplement during the cleanse. The body may need a gentle boost (Here I recommend Smooth Move tea but not for more than 3-4 days in a row) if these other remedies don’t work.
10. Immunity: keep in mind that if you are sick or if you are immune-compromised a cleanse is not for you. Why? The body needs to harness all its energy to heal itself and that is not what a cleanse does. A cleanse stirs up toxins that are tucked in fat cells and other parts of the body to eliminate them. That’s a lot of work for the body and it can leave a healthy person feeling fatigued and even slightly flu-ish. To support your immune system during a cleanse I recommend all of the above as well as a good quality probiotic and to consume mushrooms like maitake, shitake and others or to take a good quality supplement.

Putting the AKA Cleanse into Action:


1. Sleep: Aim to get as much sleep as possible – that includes naps but ideally means going to be a little bit earlier than you normally do.
2. Eat regularly: Consume eating (or if doing liquids: drinking) occasions about every 3 hours. The goal of a cleanse is not to starve. It is okay to feel hungry but starving means the body will go into a shocked / storage / hibernation mode which defeats the cleanse.
3. Consume nutrient balanced eating occasions: – see the AKA menu worksheet for more on this http://www.ashleykoff.com/services/resources.html – but the idea is to have a carb + protein + healthy fat and unlimited vegetables at each eating occasion; here are some samples:
a. The ProHydrator: Coconut water + greens powder + hemp protein + healthy fat (flax, chia oils)
b. Quintessential BreakFAST bowl: quinoa + greens + seeds + few berries or lemon juice and avocado
c. Organic applesauce with cinnamon + hemp seeds and oat bran
4. Regularity aids: everyone is different but I often find it best to take the magnesium supplement at night, to consume fiber during the day, and to hydrate with teas like detox and ginger during the day as well as the coconut water.
5. Immune support: take a probiotic on waking or consume coconut water kefir or cultured vegetables during the day and add mushrooms to your meals as well as taking a supplement either morning or night.
6. Liquid versus solid: there are different schools of thoughts on this but my advice is to do what’s best for you. The benefits of a few days of liquids include digestive system getting some time off, as well as mentally separating from a reliance on food (what am I going to have, where am I going to go get it) as well as not going out to dinners which can mean you are home earlier and to bed earlier.
7. Medications and supplements: Before beginning any cleanse, if you are taking medications or supplements prescribed by a healthcare practitioner check-in with them so they can advise you how to adjust.

Send me your questions or tweet them @ashleykoff

More AKA posts on cleanses:

https://ashleykoff.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/aka-new-year-cleanse/

https://ashleykoff.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/to-cleanse/

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Stephen Colbert hightlights Raw Dairy Raid in Venice, CA and it begs the question: Why are some people: celebs, athletes, and not-so-local folks enduring LA traffic and paying to join a private club (Rawesome) so they can consume these products?

Before The Raid
Rawesome was just a local private food club selling some of the best produce, oils, prepared food, nuts, supplements, smoothies, raw meats, wild fish, and yes, raw dairy, that happened to be up the street from me. When I met volunteer Lela Buttery who introduced me to James Stewart, a co-founder of Rawesome Foods in Venice, it was for an interview about what food is and isn’t today, how a grocery store could be run, and how one man’s journey to heal himself led to a business of helping others. So excited about what I saw and tasted, I became a member and began to write a story about James’ personal journey — how switching to whole organic, and yes raw dairy, foods helped him both physically and emotionally. My story would focus on words and phrases like “honesty” and “consumer trust” and “ethics in food production” and the interdependency of “food costs and health costs” of which James spoke so eloquently and passionately. My story wouldn’t be the story of raw dairy, it would be about quality food and the return of the truly local grocery store.

And Then Came The Raid
I heard about it from Lela. How was it? Were you scared? I asked curiously, sharing with her that my only close encounters with military force had been seeing the armed guards at the Dublin, Ireland airport and on Madison Avenue on September 12, 2000, when tanks came through the streets. I could understand their military presence based on the events at the time, but federal guns wielded in a private buying club? Why was our government crying over raw milk? Had it spilled? Had it killed? Had someone just got the address wrong and thought this was a drug bust? None of the above, I soon learned. I will leave the coverage of the raid to Colbert, as they did a most excellent job. However, despite them highlighting the issues in their piece, I left the segment wondering, had consumers’ thirsts been quenched, or was there more to the raw dairy story?

After The Raid
I sat down with Lela Buttery, a biologist, to talk about raw dairy and here’s what I learned:

Me: What does “raw” mean for milk, cheese, meats, produce?
Lela Buttery: When most people think about “raw” they associate it with vegan/vegetarian, but it actually isn’t about animal or not, raw means raw proteins. Raw proteins are virgin proteins. Straight from the animal, untouched — meaning not heated, added to or subtracted from. Raw milk is hand milked from the animal by a reputable farmer with whom you should be familiar and trust their practices. What comes out of the animal is what you consume. Dairy products are made from that raw milk such as: cheese, ice cream, yogurt and butter. Grass-fed, free-range meats (chicken, lamb, beef, pork and bison) are those that are freshly slaughtered and never finished on corn. This is what we mean when we say raw.

Me: How does it taste?
LB: Amazing! Most people think that raw milk is going to be thick or viscous, but the thick viscosity that one finds in conventional whole milk is due to homogenization. Raw milk tastes like milk, but with a fresher more enhanced flavor. Most people comment on how thin the consistency is to what they imagined it to be. The taste is the difference between instant mash potatoes and homemade.

Me: What should I look for when choosing raw on a label? Can I trust that if my grocery store claims a cheese to be raw that it really is?
LB: Due to the lack of an actual definition of the term “raw” it is open to interpretation. So don’t believe everything you see when reading “raw” on a label — investigate! Be your own scientist and test the product. Ask what temperature the product has been heated to. If it was over 150 degrees it’s probably not raw. Be aware! If the food doesn’t occur in nature the way it is packaged, then it was refined in some way.

Me: What if I want to try raw, what should I consider to try first?
LB:
Find a reputable farmer that has a small farm. A farmer should want to show off his or her good clean practices. I always tell people to get to know your farmer, visit their farm or know someone that has visited. If a farmer won’t let you visit then do not buy their product. In terms of what food to start with, it is pretty easy to get raw cheese, so I would say start there.

Me: Is raw dairy really safe for me, for my family?
LB:
You must know your source. Visit the farmer, watch their practices and sample the products that the farmer is offering. Then make a decision that is best for you and your family. It’s best when the meats are all slaughtered on a weekly basis, eggs the day after they have been laid, and milk hand milked the same week. All cold products are stored in a 30 degrees walk-in cooler. Conventionally products can be weeks old laced with preservative and washed with acids. Some poultry can be frozen up to two years by USDA standards.

Me: Are there any proven nutritional benefits of raw vs. pasteurized dairy?
LB:
There are very few studies done on the benefits of raw dairy, but I believe that it is due to lack of funding. However, I believe that raw milk is essentially a super food — it’s nutrient dense, enzyme and mineral rich, so it’s very natural. There are many countries that do not pasteurize and really it is only due to the mass production of dairy the U.S. began to pasteurize. We wouldn’t boil our breast milk, why? Because it may not be as nutrient-rich for the child. Exactly the reasons for not killing raw milk. Pasteurized milk is completely dead and has no enzymes. It is fortified with vitamins, but your body will have a hard time utilizing those vitamins in a media that is not bio-available. There are many consumers of raw dairy that claim it has aided in digestive ailments, like asthma and psoriasis, and does not seem to hurt those with lactose and casein sensitivities.

So whether or not you choose to consume raw dairy, this should help clear up some of the misconceptions.

Follow Ashley Koff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@ashleykoff

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Winter is here. We see it in our skin, hair and nails – the dryness, and the resulting little cracks that will prove to be excellent entrance ways for bad bugs that can lead to winter colds.

How do we spell protection against winter dryness and colds? HYDRATION

Sometimes hydration is only thought of as a summer issue – we are hot, we sweat, and so we remember to drink lots of water and eat water-based foods. We wear hats to shield our hair and skin from the sun and we lather on the moisturizer.

Habits change in the winter. We change from water-based vegetables to winter’s more starchy and less water-based vegetables; we trade raw salads for warm soups; and our iced teas often become hot tea with milk, hot cocoa, and hot cider which translates to: less water, more sodium = DEHYDRATION. Furthermore, we often forget our skin under all those clothes and while sun exposure may not be our issue (though winter sun should not be ignored), heaters/heating have a powerful, drying effect on our skin.

What to do? Follow these tips to improve winter health by way of HYDRATION:

1) Potassium intake: make sure to include potassium-rich foods and beverages which help bring water into our cells for hydration: coconut water (see this video to learn more about coconut water’s hydration benefits: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWOV_WRvVdc), bananas, potatoes, avocado, and even try supplement Ultima Replenisher for travel or in your workout bottle.

2)Sodium intake: be careful with excess sodium which keeps water outside our cells (dehydrating). Make your own soups or look for low-sodium options; use spices versus salt; and when using salt aim for a sea salt that contains an array of minerals; avoid canned and packaged foods where salt is used as a preservative, and choose fresh and frozen options (sodium can still be an issue in these packaged foods so read labels). In general, sodium should be less than 250mg PER serving but in some foods like soups it’s likely to be higher versus others like frozen vegetables where there should be zero. Check the Ashley Koff Approved lists on my site for good choices and always compare products in a category (i.e. cereal, soups etc.). http://www.ashleykoffapproved.com/approved/index.html.

3) Water – yes, you need it…8 glasses or take your weight in pounds and divide it in half and that will give you your daily ounces requirement (if you wight 150 pounds then that’s 75 ounces and there’s 8 ounces in a cup so you need between 9 and 10 cups daily).

4) Oil Up – when you get out of the shower or after you wash your face add some oils like coconut oil or argan oil to your skin to lock in moisture. Also, you can spray a hydrosol on your face in the day and reapply a dot of oil to the nose and lip areas which tend to get dry the quickest. Choose alcohol-free skincare products to avoid extra dryness.

5) Shroom ‘n Good Bugs: Yup, adding mushrooms like maitake and shitake to the diet or taking a daily supplement like LifeShield from New Chapter are great ways to boost your immune system. Also, consume probiotic-rich foods like coconut water kefir and cultured veggies as well as taking a supplement (I recommend and work with Align).

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December, the 12th month of the year…the time when holidays can create a holidaze leaving even the most health committed person saying, “I’ll get back on track in the New Year.” Well, we all know what putting off for tomorrow what we should do today can do for our health, our energy, our skin and our waistlines. So, this year, to help me best help you, I reached out to some of my favorite experts for their advice on how to stay on track through the holidays. These twelve tips are my gift to you – and so I begin with my own favorite tip…

1.            TREAT yourself right during the holidays…the holidays ARE a special time. Wanting to maintain your health regime is no reason to give up on treating yourself a little extra special during this time. But since when does TREAT= EAT…What puts the ‘TR’ in “TREAT” are things like: TRim your hair, TRy a new type of massage (I love Thai massage), TRek with a friend – blow off some work and go for a hike even through the snow, fly through the air on a TRapeze, and TRade your errands (with a spouse, a friend, a child). Enjoy your TReats this holiday season!

2.            From Leslie Goldman, women’s health writer, author of Locker Room Diaries, body image blogger for iVillage, www.lesliegoldmanwrites.com

Yoga can keep you emotionally and physically grounded during holiday food chaos. Feeling overstuffed? Try Warrior Pose. Plank pose keeps you balanced. And any kind of workout will rev up mood-boosting endorphins.

3.            From Veronica Bosgraaf, Pure Bar Founder, www.thepurebar.com

Enjoy Holiday Fruits:

I know you are surrounded by cookies, candies and cakes, but also surround yourself with the sweet and succulent fruits of the season.  I love pomegranate, dried cranberries, sweet pears, oranges with cloves, and baked apples with cinnamon!

Recycle Your Wrap:

Wrapping paper may look pretty but it is a huge source of waste around the holidays.  Instead of buying wrapping paper, I always save colorful tissue paper that is used to wrap clothing in and use it to wrap my gifts.  I also use old patterned bed sheets or tablecloths that you can buy at a thrift shop and cut to size.  Tie with a string and reuse over and over.  Another idea is to use your children’s artwork to wrap presents.  Grandparents especially love this one!

4.            From: Maria Emmer-Aanes, Nature’s Path, Director of Marketing and Communications, www.naturespath.com

The holidays are full of treats, but for us at Nature’s Path, treats mean delicious, organic granola bars in unique and tempting flavors that, at 150 calories or less, won’t pack on the holiday pounds.  Our 100% USDA certified organic bars contain no artificial preservatives, additives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or synthetic pesticides, and they come in flavors that will make passing up unhealthy holiday goodies easy, including: Pumpkin-n-Spice, Mmmaple Pecan, Berry Strawberry, Lotta Apricotta, Sunny Hemp, Peanut Buddy, Peanut Choco and Chococonut.  They make great stocking stuffers too!

5.            From: Michael J. Balick, PhD, Vice President for Botanical Science, Director and Philecology Curator Institute of Economic Botany, The New York Botanical Garden, www.nybg.org

As the weather gets cold up here in the North, I usually start adding lavender oil to the washing machine. Long ago I gave up fragranced and heavily synthetic washing soaps, and just add a half dozen to a dozen drops of lavender oil to the rinse cycle of the wash. Not only does it leave a hint of summer in the air, but moths seem to hate this essential oil as well. You can add lavender oil to a small jar containing dried flowers and leave it (open) in your closet, where it will help perfume your belongings as well as possibly helping keep moths away (depending how much oil you put in the jar) . Lavender has been used for centuries as a cleansing agent, for example, in bathwater and for washing floors. If you have a tub at home, put a few drops of lavender oil in a hot bath in the evening–very relaxing!

6.            From Kathy Kaehler, Trainer, Spokesperson, Author, www.kathykaehler.net

It is very easy to pack on extra pounds over the holidays.  It seems that preparing for all of the festivities invades our gym time.  To keep your weight

at bay and your energy balanced make your exercise routine a priority.  Keep it in your calendar just like an appointment.  Get it done in the morning

because you will find too many excuses not to exercise later on during the day.  Even if you can’t make it to the gym find things that you can do around your home

that will charge up the calories.  Walk up and down your stairs, power walk around your neighborhood or dust off that old piece of equipment and get moving.

Your body will thank you and you hopefully won’t be making that redundant New Year’s resolution again.

7.             From Heide Banks, a nationally recognized relationship expert and frequent contributor to 20/20, The Early Show, Good, Morning America Health, a featured contributor to The Huffington Post. HeideBanks@aol.com

Holidays are a great time to meet new people.  Go out with an open heart and  leave home that sweet but awful sweater you got as a Christmas present.

Alone for the holidays?  Tell friends as soon as possible so they can include you.  And, there are plenty of opportunities to help out your community and serve those around you this time of year.  It’s reach out time.

Wanna take a trip but you’re without a significant other?  Check out the many singles trips that abound this time of year.  Gyms are a great resource for this.

You and your mate always seem to fight more this time of year?  Join the can we just make it to January 2nd club!  Identify your source of irritation from holidays past.  Family?  Bad gift giving?  Overeating?  And talk about it.
You can’t change your relatives but you can change the way you relate to them.  Hint.  Laugh.

Thinking of breaking off a relationship?  While holiday time can be lonely there’s nothing worse than kissing someone at New Years that you have lost affection for.  Give yourself the gift of a fresh start for the new year.

And speaking of New Years, forget the vows.  You’ll feel a lot better if you practice some self-forgiveness for anything and everything that didn’t quite turn out the way you wished in the past year.  The one vow I always make us to be a little bit kinder, gentler and more understanding of myself and those I love in the year to come.

8.            From Myra Goodman, Founder and Owner, Earthbound Farm, author Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook, www.ebfarm.com

While I don’t count calories, I like to know the calorie count of some holiday foods ahead of time so I can portion accordingly. One slice of pecan pie is over 500 calories, and I find I am just as satisfied with half a slice eaten at half the pace, savoring every bite. A whole slice after dinner would most likely leave me feeling too full and a little worried about holiday weight gain – making it less of a pleasure.

9.            From Jovial King, founder and formulator, Urban Moonshine Organic Bitters + Tonics, www.urbanmoonshine.com

This holiday season make sure to have a bottle of herbal bitters within reach at your favorite holiday gatherings!  Bitters stimulate digestion and help to soothe any feelings of overindulgence, including gas, bloating and acid reflux.  But the best part might just be bitters’ ability to stave off that sugar craving.  After a big meal reach for your bottle of (urban moonshine :)) bitters instead of dessert.  It will keep your body feeling great and that waistline in check.

10.            From Erin Schrode, a young ecoRenaissance woman, the “face of the new green generation,” the spokeswoman and co-founder of the United States-based Turning Green campaign, promotes global sustainability, youth leadership, environmental education, and conscious lifestyle choices, www.erinschrode.com

What’s the best way to “eco-ize” any gift this holiday season? Go one step beyond recycled wrapping paper and package up presents in something reusable or repurposed! It makes any gift far more personal and fun. Old maps, newspaper, shopping bags, even plain paper bags (the little ones can go to town decorating with markers!) are perfect for the job. The receptacle itself can be part of the present too… think scarves, towels, totes, and baskets.

11.            From Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches, www.cynthiasass.com

This season simplify your menus. Enjoy season foods as close to their natural state as possible with just a few natural ingredients to enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your meals. For example, core an organic apple or pear, drizzle with a mixture of water, organic pure maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and bake in the oven. Brush sliced root vegetables (carrots, turnips, and beets) with a garlic infused extra virgin olive oil, roast and garnish with sea salt. Melt organic dark chocolate, fold in fresh grated ginger and drizzle over slices of fresh pineapple. Simplifying your menus can free you up to spend more time with friends and family but you won’t sacrifice one iota of flavor.

12.            From Elisha Reverby, Elique Organics, organic skin care and beauty expert, writer, consultant, salon owner, creator of food based skin nutrition. www.getwaxed.com, www.eliqueorganicskinfood.com

This holiday season share, listen, feel and laugh… do everything you do with passion and zest and let your worries fall to the wayside, trusting and relishing in the love and blessings that surround you. Your skin will naturally glow and you will be the most radiant person in the room. Guaranteed! Merry merry…

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In a never-ending cycle of “we say it’s good today, then we say it’s bad tomorrow” the recent raising of the vitamin D daily recs, while acknowledging the need to increase levels in Americans, confuses consumers with a concern about whether to supplement and what levels are actually best. The following review on the matter in Natural Foods Merchandiser is extremely helpful to read… http://newhope360.com/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d-intake-levels-officially-rise?cid=nl_iu

Furthermore, I will add that those who say they aren’t sure we need to supplement Vitamin D likely haven’t looked at the food portions necessary to reach daily levels (8 glasses of milk, anyone?) or that most foods have Vitamin D2 vs Vitamin D3, which is the optimal source for humans.

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Last month, I once again went “to the source” of a food (nutrient) as part of my ongoing effort to see food production firsthand and address any questions or concerns that I have on behalf of US consumers. Unlike recent trips to Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Alaska, this trip hardly took me off the beaten path, from DC I traveled to Columbia, Maryland, but rather it had me traveling through time both the past and the future.

Ashley Koff RD at Martek

Ashley Koff RD at Martek

Algae are some of the oldest living organisms on the planet, yet, as I learned, they also hold promise for helping to address nutrition, ocean, and energy issues today as well as into the future. One key reason: the algae I went to see are an exceptionally rich source of the essential fatty acid, DHA. During my tour of Martek’s facility, I learned that this discovery – of what known as life’sDHA by Martek today – occurred as part of a now defunct space project.
My interest in algal DHA stemmed from wanting to know more about something appearing in today’s food supply but equally from my growing concern for sustainability, or survival, of the oceans as pollution and the harvesting of forage fish for the isolation of DHA and EPA threaten the viability of our oceans even for the next generation. Thus, I came with a slew of questions about algae, which is a vegetarian source of the essential fatty acid, DHA, compared to that found in wild fish (salmon, sardines, etc.). However, upon arrival at Martek’s Maryland laboratory, a wall of products

The "Product Wall" at Martek

The "Product Wall" at Martek

which contain their algal DHA (life’sDHA) greeted me and stirred all sorts of additional questions about how algal DHA makes it into some of our most common food products today. After a tour of the facility by Martek senior scientist, Dr. Casey Lippmeier, and a sit down question and answer period with their vice president of scientific affairs, Dr. Jim Astwood, I arrived at the following observations about algal DHA and its role in the American diet today:

  1. All Americans need to consume DHA, especially in women of child-bearing years and young children – and consuming it from different dietary sources can help ensure adequate levels as well as absorption. Algal DHA is a vegetarian source that is equally well, if not better, absorbed DHA than other vegetarian sources of essential fatty acids that require additional steps to make usable DHA.
  2. Fish sources of DHA also include other omega 3 fatty acids as well as other omegas (there are as many as 16 different omegas), vitamins, protein and antioxidants. Algal DHA is not meant to replace wild fish sources but it can complement modest fish consumption (1-2 servings weekly of wild fish) in the diet to ensure sufficient DHA intake. For those who don’t consume fish, algal DHA presents an opportunity to get this core, essential, nutrient into the body.
  3. According to Martek, they do not remove the DHA, isolate it, but rather provide the DHA in its whole food form which also contains small amounts of other fatty acids and nutrients – levels and types of which are strain dependent.
  4. Martek works with food manufacturers, and I was able to visit their test kitchen to see how they actually do some of the food development and testing work themselves, to ensure that the DHA quality is not compromised in the production or packaging of the final product.
  5. The DHA in one serving of products containing life’sDHA varies and is not intended to deliver one’s entire dose of DHA; that said, some products, like the organic eggs do contain an excellent serving of DHA – eggs contain levels as high as 150 mg per egg. Other products with “high” levels – the delicious Dr. Dave Mega-O truffles have 200 mg per serving, Omega To Go has 100 mg per serving, and the Happy Baby / Happy Bellies products provide good sources of DHA for growing bodies.
Ashley Koff RD in Martek's Lab with Senior Scientist Dr. Casey Lippmeier

Ashley Koff RD in Martek's Lab with Senior Scientist Dr. Casey Lippmeier

Martek’s DHA is not genetically modified: this was a big issue for me, and I was able to see firsthand how strains are selected to deliver the highest quantity and quality of DHA. I’ve seen this in farming – where the most productive plants or seeds are the ones selected for future use so this made sense to me.
And I note my final conclusions here. I left feeling quite comfortable and excited about the opportunity for algal DHA to help rectify core nutrition today: imbalanced fatty acid consumption (for most, this means insufficient intake of omega 3 fatty acids). I believe that the addition of algal DHA to animal feed, soil, and food products can help accomplish this goal in a healthy way. That said, just because DHA is added to a food product does not mean that one can discount or minimize the importance of core nutrition principles for optimal health. I believe it healthier for babies to consume breast milk than formula, but both should be rich in DHA. As valuable as DHA is to the diet, and it is termed essential because we have to get it from our diet, I believe it as critical to reduce our intake of chemicals by consuming organic food products (and by organic that also means non-genetically modified). And as great as the need to get DHA into our diet is, it doesn’t overshadow the negatives of a diet derived from high glycemic load carbohydrates (i.e., fruit drinks, refined flour products, etc.) and otherwise nutrient poor foods or food products.

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