Coconut is having a major moment: hailed as a superfood, weight-loss secret weapon, and healthy kitchen superstar all rolled into one—coconut now sits at the center of many obsessions. And, it's showing up in a bevy of kitchen staples from vegan bacon strips to coconut flours, and cold-pressed oils to coconut creamers.
Is Coconut Oil Healthy?
You are seeing more and more coconuts and coconut products on the shelves for good reason. Functional medicine prizes cold-pressed coconut oil for its medium-chain triglycerides (which may have beneficial effects on metabolism and insulin), lauric acid (a natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral), and coconut's ability to give “good” HDL cholesterol a boost.
But, it's fair to be skeptical. The truth is that many health professionals remain divided on coconut’s heath merits. Medical groups such as the American Heart Association and Harvard School of Public Health have urged caution due to coconut’s ability to raise LDL cholesterol and its high saturated fat content.
How to Shop for Coconuts
If you do choose to shop for this touted health food, there are a few important things to keep in mind. As you shop, how can you be sure you're choosing the best brands? It's vital to choose brands that are are building solutions to help lower coconut’s environmental impact, and not the opposite. Unlike a lot of other well known steps we often take to eat cleaner and more sustainably, coconuts can be harder to crack. (For starters, they're not going to show up in our CSA box anytime soon!)
In a nutshell, whether you’re whipping up smoothies or churning out coconut ice cream this summer, here are the 4 easy tips I recently shared with Clean Eating Magazine to help you choose the most eco-friendly and ethical options from this far-flung favorite.
1. Support eco-friendly public-private partnerships.
Look for coconut products that have partnerships with respected global conservation groups like Conservation International, where each purchase you make helps replenish and restore habitats.
2. Choose organic or Fair Trade Certified.
These 3rd party certifications ensure things like less intensive on-farm practices, commitment to biodiversity, pesticide-free agriculture, and fair wages.
3. Look for high-quality cold-pressed or raw oils.
Smaller batch, hand processing, and traditional methods are typically more eco-friendly than refined processing (which uses industrial chemicals) and large scale equipment.
4. Opt for coconut powder.
Instead of coconut water, look for dehydrated coconut powder which packs in potassium and other electrolytes, while using less packaging and requires fewer fossil fuels to ship to market.
This week over 80,000 health and wellness leaders will gather in Annaheim, CA for what some call the Fashion Week of food: Natural Products Expo West is where the world’s top food companies, healthy-food innovators, retailers, and even potential investors as come together under one roof to ask “what’s next?”
Here area some of the biggest trends to watch for at this year’s show that are already reshaping how we eat and drink in 2018.
Foods that are “Net Positive”
For many forward-thinking brands, it’s no longer enough to be sustainable: the best brands capturing consumers’ attention today feature ingredients and business practices that go a step further to focus on being regenerative for both people and planet (For example; pea protein and peanuts aren’t only tasty plant proteins associated with a healthy diet, they help replenish soil health, reducing the need for fossil-fuel heavy fertilizers). This trend includes beef and bison products that use regenerative grazing to restore soil health, companies funneling back profits into a strong strong social mission, or brands that have 3rd party certifications such as Biodynamic.
Upcycling of ingredients
Food entrepreneurs are creating delicious new foods and drinks from upcycled ingredients previously been cast aside as food waste. According to the USDA between 30-40% of all food in the US goes to waste and this movement keeps nourishment and resources out of our landfills. This trend includes fruit leathers and cold-pressed juices made from “ugly” veggies and fruits, bars baked with “spent” grain leftover from craft beer brewing, or antioxidant tea made using coffee leaves (which in conventional farming are considered waste or fed to livestock).
Expanding Organic Access As a More Just Food System
Leaders in the good food movement are striving to bring the benefits of organics (such as ingredients grown without potentially harmful synthetic pesticides) to more eaters. Earths’ Best Organic ® Baby food (one of my partners I am proud to collaborate with), for instance, is focused on making organics an everyday affordable option through things like simple packaging and traditional recipes. Plus is the only national organic brand that’s authorized for WIC, a federal nutritional assistance program for women, infants and children.
A Mighty Microbiome
Our keen interest in cultivating a healthy gut health continues to show up at the grocery store. No doubt this is boosted by a flurry of that science which suggests our microbiome. The term microbiome refers to the collection of microbes that live in and on the human body. It acts almost like a hidden organ, forming a complex ecosystem that constantly interacts with our own health. Researchers believe the microbiome plays a critical role in influencing the pH of our gut (which can encourage or prohibit the growth of unwanted pathogens), helps us synthesize essential vitamins, influences our brain chemistry and mental health, and even more, regulates our own genetic activity in ways that can spur health or fan inflammation. While science is still far from fully understood (and zealous marketing in some cases leaps ahead of the evidence), look for this trend to play out across the grocery aisles in everything from drinking vinegars and “gut shots”, snacks and condiments promising a probiotic boost, to foods rich in prebiotics (indigestible fibers that our “good bugs” need to thrive).
The Plant Protein Revolution
This category continues to soar, and is driven by two trends: our unwavering interest in plant-based eating and a passion for protein. In addition to next-generation plant burgers bent on mimicking the look and flavor of real beef, look for innovations in beverages (such as peanut milk, which delivers an impressive 8 grams of protein per 8 oz, on par with cow’s milk), snacks (crunchy chickpeas, anyone?), pastas (plant proteins are addition nutritional oomph with garbanzo bean, lentil, or almond flour), plus plant protein powders (such as hemp) as a protein and omega-3 rich DIY base for the smoothie bowl craze.
Functional Ingredients to Power Well-Being
Call it superfoods 2.0: from adaptogens to mushrooms, there is a whole new generation of functional ingredients that show promise in helping us soothe away stress, rev-up our immune system or give us a mental boost. These compounds are showing up in energy bars, chocolate, coconut creamers, teas and other wellness beverages, coffee drinks, smoothie packets, and more.
The Natural Products Expo West is right around the corner and I am thrilled to be part of this event! From March 7-11, 2018, the world's top food pioneers, healthy food innovators and up-and-coming natural product brands shaping the future of food will come together under one roof.
I always look forward to this event because I believe it's THE place to connect with the people on the front lines of the good food revolution. From new ingredients and products to better agriculture methods, these are the folks working together to create a healthier, more just food system that nourishes more eaters than ever before. (I got a sneak peek as a NEXTY judge for this year's winners, and I can't wait to share with you what I learn once I'm able to share!)
What Sharing the Organic Story is All AboutJoin Me & The Organic Center at Expo!
Will you be there? If so, I hope you'll join me for Sharing the Organic Story, a not-to-miss panel I'm moderating with The Organic Center. The success of organics hinges on being able to effectively communicate its value.
At a time when more and more shoppers are demanding trust and transparency, how can brands and health communicators harness the full power of the organic story?
What is the latest science around the benefits of organics—for people, planet, and our shared prosperity?
In today's highly saturated, information-overload world, how can we best distill and communicate that to advance people's understanding?
YES! I can't wait to be part of this conversation.
Natural Foods Expo West: Sharing the Organic Story
Thursday March 8, 2018
4:00 - 5:00pm
Asa Bradman PhD., Associate Director of Exposure Assessment, University of California, Berkeley
Tracy Misiewicz, PhD., Associate Director Science Programs, The Organic Center
Jessica Shade, PhD., Director of Science Programs, The Organic Center
Kate Geagan, Author / Consultant, Kate Geagan Nutrition (Moderator)
My latest article in Clean Magazine is on shelves (and online) now!
In it, I tackle a term that is just starting to go mainstream - regenerative agriculture. Good food pioneers are rapidly pivoting to this more holistic, regenerative farming method which focuses on the importance of building healthy, resilient soil as a touchstone for better food, better farms, and a better world. (The Rodale Institute offers a helpful primer on the research here. )
But, what does soil health mean exactly for you, the eater? The evidence is in early stages, but research continues to illuminate how our gut health (and our overall resilience against allergies and illness) is directly impacted by the quality of the foods we eat. And the quality of the food we eat links back to the on-farm conditions: from the soil all the way up to the milking barn.
Here is a sneak peek of what I shared! (Hint: it all goes back to the farm.)
4 Ways to Boost Your Gut’s Resilience
Invest in Farm-Fresh Ingredients - to optimize the healthy soil- healthy farms- healthy YOU circle.
Leave the Leaves and Skin On - when possible: it’s “gut food”.
Included Fermented Foods Daily - to help healthy gut bacteria flourish.
Give Back - step onto a farm, volunteer at your CSA, or compost your scraps: step back into Nature as often as you can.
Regenerative Agriculture in the Marketplace
Food pioneers like EPIC and Back to the Roots are creating a whole new category of regenerative food products that deliver a cleaner product (in terms of ingredient lists and farming practices), as well as a greener footprint. The biodynamic certification is another breakthrough trend of 2017, which lets eaters connect with producers who are committed to following a set of regenerative on farm practices.
We are just beginning to see the rise of regenerative agriculture. To learn more about it, grab a copy on your local newsstand or read the article over at Cleaneatingmag.com for a deep dive into the why and how.
Protein sits at the white hot center of so many trends today-from health to weight control, from food tribes to sustainability. And it’s driving an incredible shift that’s reshaping shopping carts across the US. But what is better protein? How much do we need? How often? And how can we use the science to help eaters get better protein deliciously?
Join award-winning nutrition experts Ashley Koff RD and Kate Geagan RD for The Better Protein Summit: a 90 minute webinar that will inform, inspire and invite YOU to be part of the better protein conversation- and to make it easier for you to help patients, the public, practitioners, the media, companies and policy makers make better protein choices more often. During this webinar, we’ll cover protein quality, sustainability, access, processing, dietary recommendations and innovative global trends.
Who Should Join the Better Protein Summit?
Participants will receive access to patient-ready recipes, The Better Protein Summit presentation, resources and contacts for companies committed to better protein choices today and tomorrow. Who should register? Dietitians, nutritionists, health coaches, fitness professionals, educators, and better health enthusiasts looking for the latest evidence coupled with leading edge thinking. Registration is required to receive the slides, resources, to participate in the robust Q+A and for those that attend live you are elligible for 1.5 CEUs (we will provide a certificate upon completion and request).
However, you do not need to attend live, we understand that things come up and we will make this webinar available ongoing as a resource for you at your better time. REGISTER HERE
This wouldn't be possible without our amazing sponsors Manitoba Harvest, Pacific Foods, REBBL,The National Peanut Board and Love the Wild
That’s the question driving one of the biggest breakthrough ideas to move into the mainstream in 2017: Biodynamic Farming.
If you haven’t yet brushed up against biodynamics at the grocery store, in your meal-delivery kit or during a recent restaurant outing, expect to soon.
Why? I tackle that question in my latest column with Clean Eating Magazine: Is Biodynamic the New Organic? But it's part of a broader push by good food innovators to rethink what's possible when it comes to agriculture...how can we go a step beyond organics to farm in a way that's resilient, restorative, and helps regenerate not only the quality of our food, but also the planet?
What is the Difference Between Organic and Biodynamic?
Biodynamics gels around a simple idea: much as functional medicine views a person as a living, holistic system rather than just “a list of symptoms” when treating disease, Biodynamic farming views the farm as a whole, living organism. The goal? To farm in a way that not only produces nourishing foods and healthy farm animals, but maintains a type of biologic balance that makes it self-sustaining. For instance, on a biodynamic farm inputs like fertilizer, livestock feed or pest control don’t need to be trucked in (as with conventional farming), but are naturally generated on the farm itself.
To put it even more simply...remember Venn Diagrams? In that scenario, USDA Certified Organic would sit neatly within the larger circle of Biodynamic agricultural practices, as biodynamics has a much broader list of requirements.
Eaters, growers, and food companies at the front lines of the New Food Economy are getting behind this new thinking in a major way-such as Back to the Roots, whose biodynamic breakfast cereal recently snared a spot on New York City’s School Menu . Even for farmers who can’t become 100% certified Biodynamic, it offers a profound and powerful vision for healing the food system.
So....I still love to stock my pantry with organic options, but now I’m happy to make some more room in my cart for biodynamics, too.