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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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Energy bars, Protein bars, Snack Bars – AKA Discusses Bar Mania with ABC LA’s Food Coach Lori Corbin (8/11/10 at 6:50 am and 11:50 am PST)

Last week, Lori asked me for my take on bars – specifically what people should look for, what do I look for (what’s AKA?) and what are some of the traps that we can encounter with bars. See my thoughts below as well as a blogpost for the Huffington Post Living section who also asked me for my thoughts – seems a lot of people are wondering how to sort through the bars.

  1. When is a bar good for a “snack” versus a “meal replacement”?
    AKA: In my practice, I actually don’t distinguish between a meal or snack but rather use the term ‘eating occasion.’ Why? Too often people get caught up in the thinking that a snack means small, fun, grab-n-go…and a “meal” means large and has to happen at set times.  Our body doesn’t think this way – our body is like a race car, it wants “pit stops” meaning that about every 3 hours we need a “pit stop” for refueling and choosing how large / small based on appetite, availability, and activity levels.
  2. What’s the right amount of nutrients for a bar? (more…)

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New York Times Article “What Do You Lack? Probably Vitamin D

I enjoyed seeing this article in the NY Times on the importance of adequate vitamin D. I am a proponent of checking these levels annually (at least) and working with your health care practitioner to improve your levels.

However, the information on food sources was a bit off and I want to clarify it as well as discuss some of the ways to improve vitamin D levels. While wild salmon and other “oily fish” are good food sources of vitamin D3 (the active form), the fortified foods mentioned (like most milk, juices etc) and mushrooms contain vitamin D2 which requires conversion in the body.  And what’s more, (more…)

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“AKA likes this piece on the benefits of organics – thanks Rodale”

Is Organic Food Healthier? The Answer Is Yes
A study claims insufficient evidence that organic food is healthy. But as the President’s Cancer Panel reports, avoiding food sprayed with carcinogens still makes sense.
By Leah Zerbe

Grow your own organic garden; supplement what you grow with organic food from your local farmer’s market and supermarket.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—There’s not enough evidence to say organic food is healthier, because studies on the topic are few and far between, according to a British review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this month. (Of course, that also means there’s a dearth of evidence that eating organic won’t help your health.) However, there’s more to the story. Organic advocates note that although the review was solid, and more funding is needed to explore the effects of eating organic on preventing disease, there is plenty of concrete evidence linking the chemicals used on our food (including carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and neurotoxins) to human health problems—even in small doses comparable to that found on food, in food, and around the home in common chemical bug and weed killers. In fact, earlier this month the President’s Cancer Panel cited emerging research and recommended Americans take the precautionary approach and start eating food grown without chemical pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics.

THE DETAILS: To be clear, despite the way that some media outlets are reporting this story, (more…)

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Imagine this scene. Cute, sweet 20 something girl sampling potion at whole foods to young, maybe 14 year old – he acts interested, reads the label, watches her as she fondles the sleek bottle and asks him in a knowing older woman voice “you know that red wine is good for you, right” he stutters and is silenced. “Well it is,” she authoritatively says (omitting the “because the people who are paying me told me so”) continuing “because the mineral in there, resveratrol, helps the heart muscle work better so you can lose weight and workout better.”

Well, I almost dropped my salad, but instead stayed to listen. “So the water has that in there,” the young one asked meekly. “You bet, you should buy one.” And so he did. And so I looked. Cardio Water…because regular water must not be healthy enough. Oh and cane juice. Because if it said sugar, one would say “why are doctors telling us to drink sugar water for our heart health?” And then erythritol – because if the sugar water isn’t sweet enough people won’t drink it. Ah and then the resveratrol, and a few other unworthy mentions. What’s more, the bottle is 1.5 servings so the 5 grams of sugar becomes 8 and suddenly the “doctors who specially designed this for us” get the privelege of providing us with a product that has more sugar and less nutritional value than a Gatorade (not that I’m promoting that, just giving you a refernece). Net net, when it comes to nutrition today a lot of doctors DO know what they are talking about and say that moderate consumption of red wine for some people can be healthy – and if not, you could always eat red grapes or take a quality supplement of resveratrol. But sadly, some doctors rely on their credentials to prove meaningful enough to get you to buy it…”why? Because my doctor told me to.” Your smarter than that. Even without your Cardio Water.

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Originally published on The Huffington Post.

What a weekend it was last week as over 7000 brands got together to show-off their wares at the Natural Products Expo West. For the first time, food didn’t dominate (although you wouldn’t know it from the many food aisles exhibiting new and favorites foods). This gathering attracts the media, retailers, and also speakers for interactive discussions on the latest health trends. The following provides an overview of my finds as I scoured Expo to see what’s new, what’s different, what’s worthy, all along the way asking the questions that you, the potential consumer or healthcare practitioner would want to know.

Get Smart?  There were a lot of food products and beverages vying for our attention in the name of ‘smart’ – Octain Brain Bar, TonIQ, and Nawgan – as well as Omega 3 fatty acid supplements for adults, kids and babies. AKA take: What’s really smart? Vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids (Salba Smart, Ascenta’s NutraVege, Barlean’s vegan Omega Swirl), wild salmon (I like Organic Bistro’s frozen meals and New Chapter’s WholeOmega),

and eating ORGANIC apples – (Earthbound Farm, YogaVive). A win-win for babies – HappyBaby provides organic and uses Salba Smart in their formula.

And being Smart didn’t just apply to the foods. (more…)

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I get a lot of questions about plastic – and until recently I struggled to find a great resource, but I love Renee Loux’s Easy Green Living (pg 120) for its plastic safety information (as well as just about everything else!).

So check it out and learn that 1,2,4,5,7* (asterisk is important here) seem to be safer.

That said, reusing non-plastic bags, mugs, and steel containers present great options for skipping the whole debate (check out company listings on the AKA recommended accessories on www.ashleykoffapproved.com)!

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