The Single Best Type of Diet for Overall Health

Several recent studies suggest that whether you're looking for weight loss or to improve your overall health, the best eating plans are based around vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. 
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When farm to table is just a few blocks away

Jen Rosenthal walks beside a row of green pea tendrils bearing small, cloverlike leaves and thin stems. She kneels down to cut the top halves. Sugar snap peas would grow from their flowers if left to mature, but Rosenthal has found leaves from this particular type pack a lot of bright flavor. Place them in water after harvesting and they don't deteriorate quickly like their siblings. It's one of many lessons Rosenthal has learned in the two years she's been growing produce at Legends Farm, a training site for urban farmers through the Chicago Botanic Garden's Windy City Harvest program. Read more from Crains Chicago Business
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Young Farmer Finds Inspiration Right at Home in Indiana

The interest among young people in farming has declined significantly in recent decades. The reasons are varied. Farmland ownership in fewer hands, with many thousands of small farmers squeezed out. The stresses and uncertainties of a career so highly dependent on the whims of nature. The lure of a more exciting life in the big city. These and more prompted many young people to decide there was a better way to make a living.

But the longterm impact of this trend has become sharply evident, and it is putting our entire food system at risk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the average age of farmers in America is roughly 60. 

FamilyFarmed’s Good Food on Every Table website is launching a new series titled “Growing Young Farmers.” They kick off the series with the following piece written by Kara Gunthorp of Indiana’s Gunthorp Farms. Kara, who is 22 years old, returned to her family’s farm following her recent graduation from Purdue University to work with her father Greg Gunthorp. Since the 1990s, he has been an innovator and advocate in the area of sustainable livestock production. His leadership has made Gunthorp Farms a major supplier of sustainably produced meat for restaurants in Chicago, such as Rick Bayless’ Frontera group, and in Indianapolis.

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Chasing Chickens Around Chicago, Or How a Chef Supports Local Farms

Sourcing locally is a commitment that is both rewarding and frustrating for a chef.

When my wife Lori and I started White Oak Gourmet — our home meal delivery service in suburban Chicago — 13 years ago, it was quite difficult to source organic and local. It is easier now, but challenges remain.

Up until just a short time ago, we had to chase down our chicken order on the truck from Gunthorp Farms, an Indiana producer of pasture-raised livestock that built its business around purveying directly to leading Chicago restaurants. As they did not deliver in our area at the time, we would sometimes have to meet the driver at Lula Cafe or behind Frontera Grill.

Occasionally we have what sometimes feels like clandestine meetings to pick up orders from our farmers in the alleys behind restaurants such as FlorioleHopleaf and The Bristol in Chicago.

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The Mediterranean way to a long life

Drink a glass of olive oil every day – the Mediterranean way to a long life

by Tim October 9 

I felt nauseous and dizzy. My attempted one week of following the intensive olive oil diet was not going well. It was eight in the morning and on an empty stomach I had only finished half of the small glass of golden liquid specially chosen by my Spanish friends as the smoothest Albequina variety of extra virgin olive oil. Dipping crusty warm bread into it before an evening meal is one thing. Drinking it neat in the morning was another.

For the sake of science and my book I was trying to emulate the diets of Cretan fishermen from the 1960s, who reportedly had a glass of olive oil for breakfast before a hard day of fishing or goat herding. These high intakes of oil had been suggested as a cause of their remarkable longevity, despite the large amounts of saturated fat they consumed as a result.

I decided to replace my usual yoghurt and fruit breakfast with the golden drink to test the story. Thirty minutes later I was lying on the floor after a faint in the hairdresser, which was unlikely to be a coincidence. Despite realising I maybe should have lined my stomach first, I abandoned my heroic attempt.

In Britain and the US, people consume on average around 1 litre of olive oil per person per year, but isn’t much compared to the Greeks, Italians and Spanish who all drink more 13 litres per person. Olive oil, with its high calories and mixed saturated and unsaturated fats, was once assumed by many doctors to be dreadfully unhealthy. But health surveys of European populations kept finding that southern Europeans lived longer and had less heart disease despite higher fat intakes. It turns out olive oil was the likely reason.

Mediterranean diet vs low-fat

Ten years ago an ambitious and unique research trial was started in Spain in 7,500 mildly overweight men and women in their 60s at risk of heart disease and diabetes. They were randomly allocated to two diets for five years: one a low-fat diet recommended by doctors in most western countries and the other a high fat Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra olive oil or nuts.

The “PREDIMED” study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 conclusively showed that the Mediterranean diet group had a third less heart disease, diabetes and stroke than the low-fat group. They also lost a little weight and had less memory loss. The most recent results showed that it also reduced chances of breast cancer, albeit in a small number of women.

Picking through the data, the researchers found that the extra olive oil group did slightly better than the extra nut group, but both were clearly superior to low fat diets. The research was also much more reliable than many diet studies because it was a randomised control trial that looked at a large group of people over a long period of time, rather than just monitoring people on one diet for a few days or weeks.

The benefits can’t be narrowed down to one single food or factor but to some general themes. Extra fibre, a diverse range of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, yoghurts and cheese, small amounts of fish and meat, red wine, nuts and seeds and good quality olive oil all played their part. However the authors believe that the olive oil itself was the most powerful single factor.

The cheaper forms of olive oil (those labelled regular or virgin) didn’t show any benefit – it had to be extra virgin. The difference between the grades of oil lies not just in the lower acidity, freshness and richer taste but in the number of chemicals released called polyphenols. High grade extra virgin oil, especially if cold extracted, has around 30 polyphenols that act as antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and also help reduce the effects of aging particularly on the heart and brain.

Until recently it was thought these antioxidant polyphenols acted directly on genes and blood vessels. But it turns out that they also work via our gut microbes that make up our microbiome. This is the community of trillions of diverse bacteria which live in our large intestine. They feed off the different polyphenols and produce other small chemicals (short chain fatty acids) that dampen down inflammation and help our immune system.

The more bugs the better

Complex high fat foods such as extra virgin olive oil, when eaten with a wide variety of other healthy polyphenol-dense foods, provide the basis for a rich and diverse community of gut microbes. This diversity is increasingly being shown to be important for our health. The original PREDIMED study didn’t measure gut microbes directly (although subsequent research is doing so) but the striking benefits of the Mediterranean diet and particularly extra virgin olive oil are that they are superb gut microbe fertilisers and improve gut health.

Critics of olive oil, who usually promote untested alternatives, suggest its lower burning temperature make make it more likely to produce potential carcinogens in cooking. But the Spanish participants in the trial regularly cooked with the oil, reassuringly with no obvious health consequences.

Eating extra virgin olive oil as part of a diverse Mediterranean diet is clearly beneficial in Spanish adults. And although genes partially control preferences, there is no reason to believe it won’t work in other cultures and populations. If we start educating people to use high-quality extra virgin olive oil early in life and change its stigma as a medicine or punishment, we could make our populations and our gut microbiomes healthier. Although we are unlikely to ever match the Greeks.


Courtesy  Tim October 9 

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Unlocking Sprouted Grains

A sprouted grain is the beginning of a grain seed's life cycle, before it becomes a mature plant. Given just the right temperature and moisture conditions, the outer layer will split open and a young shoot will sprout out of the grain, releasing vital nutrients and enzymes stored inside. Grain seeds are similar to long-term storage packages, designed to keep their goodness locked inside until conditions are right to grow a new plant.

According to the Whole Grains Council, the sprouting process can increase the amount and availability of some vitamins (notably vitamin C) and minerals, making sprouted grains a potential nutrition powerhouse. 

"With the attention paid to gluten-free, a dark cloud has been surrounding whole grains for several years," said registered dietitian, Kashi nutrition partner and author, Toby Amidor. "Unless you have celiac disease or other individual needs, whole grains - including sprouted grains - are an important part of a healthy diet."

"Sprouted grains are a delicious way to add fiber and essential minerals such as iron, zinc or magnesium to your diet," continued Amidor. "They aren't just for the serious health food aficionados anymore - many new packaged foods feature these unique and nutritious grains."

The scoop on whole grains

What are whole grains and what makes them so healthy? Simply put, they are small, edible seeds that come from grasses such as wheat and barley. Whole grains can be ground, cracked, or flaked, and still retain their benefits. Here are three ways whole grains have a positive impact:

  • Healthy Weight: Packed with nutrition in the form of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates and fiber, whole grains contain some of the best elements to keep you on track when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Research supports the notion that eating healthy amounts of fiber, which are found naturally in whole grains, helps people manage their weight.

  • Happy Heart: Consuming more plant foods, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, has been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease.

  • Positive Energy: Because whole grains are complex carbohydrates and they naturally contain fiber, they give you more nutrients per calorie than refined carbohydrates. It's a better way to fuel your day!

Nutrients unlocked

Sprouted grains are a great way to obtain the essential minerals and fiber that help you feel good:

  • Iron: Carries oxygen.

  • Zinc: Nourishes skin.

  • Magnesium: Helps support bones.

  • Fiber: Aids digestion.

Sprouted grains in your diet

The daily recommended intake of whole grains is 48 grams, and the nutritional advantages of sprouted grains make them a great option to achieve this daily goal. Here are some ways to incorporate sprouted grains into your positive eating routine: 

  • Sprinkle them into salads or stir fries.

  • Check grocery aisles for products with sprouted grains, like Kashi's new Organic Promise Sprouted Grains cereal. 

  • Use sprouted grain flours in your favorite baked goods or homemade pasta.

Our Favorite Chicken Wraps are made with Maria's Organic Sprouted Grain Wraps

Read the complete article by Willie Grace in Houston Style Magazine

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Real Food for Real People

We came across an interesting story in The Atlantic recently. It discusses vitamins versus vitamin supplements. It says what we've believed all along; you can get all of your nutritional needs if you eat whole, unprocessed foods. 

Read More from the Atlantic. . . 

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Join White Oak Gourmet at Localicious! At the Good Food Fest March 20th


The Local Food Party of the Season!

March 20, 2015  7:00 - 9:30pm

UIC Forum
725 West Roosevelt Road 
ChicagoIL 60607

Join us as we serve tasty bites to support the Good Food Movement and
 You'll mingle with other local food enthusiasts at


The party pairs family farmers with chef-driven restaurants for a sampling of homegrown cuisine and craft beer, wine, and cocktails.  

Celebrate the farmers who grow our food and the chefs who transform it!

When: Friday, March 20th from 7:00-9:30pm

Price: $95 at the door, 

$80 in advance! 


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The last days of the low-fat diet?

The last days of the low-fat diet?

The low-fat trend finally appears to be on its way out. The notion that saturated fats are detrimental to our health is deeply embedded in our zeitgeist — but shockingly, the opposite just might be true. For over 50 years the medical establishment, public health officials, nutritionists, and dietitians have been telling the American people to eat a low-fat diet, and in particular, to avoid saturated fats. Only recently have nutrition experts begun to encourage people to eat “healthy fats.” A very interesting read:  Read more from Grist:
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Food Policy and Antibiotics Discussion at Uncommon Ground

We recently had pleasure to join others interested in improving our food system at a forum held at Uncommon Ground in Chicago.  Speakers included Representative Jan Shakowsky, Helen Cameron, owner of Uncommon Ground, and Claire Benjamin of Food Policy Action.

The topic was the overuse of antibiotics in industrial animal farming. Did you know that 80% of all antibiotics administered are given to animals on factory farms? This overuse is causing the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria that do not respond to treatment for both common and rare infections. Care to learn more?  Here's some links on the topic:

Antibiotic Resistance - from the Pew Trust

More from the American Family Practitioner Website


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