What is Nutrigeonomics

Nutrigenomics is the “study of how foods affect our genes and how individual genetic differences can affect the way we respond to nutrients (and other naturally occurring compounds) in the foods we eat,” according to NCMHD Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics at University of California, Davis. This new branch of genetic research is getting a lot of attention because of the practical applications of its findings: it may be able to be improve not only the health of the general population, but also the health of individuals based on their personal genetic makeup.

Researchers are working off of these five tenets, according to UC Davis:

~Diet can be a serious risk factor for a number of diseases.
~Common dietary chemicals can alter our gene expression or structure.
~The degree to which diet influences the balance between healthy or not may depend on our genetic makeup.
~Some diet-regulated genes likely play a role in the onset, progression and/or severity of chronic diseases.
~Dietary intervention based on personalized nutrition can be used to prevent, mitigate or cure chronic disease.
~None of these tenets seem crazy. We’ve always been told “you are what you eat.” Now that maxim is getting backed up with science, and the possibilities for improved health via “personalized nutrition” are exciting.
Scientists are looking at areas where changing genes can help with health issues, like lactose intolerance. Researchers have identified the genetic variant responsible for whether or not we can consume fresh dairy without complications. It’s believed this discovery “should now make it possible to design individualized dietary interventions based on a genetic test for lactose intolerance in early childhood.”

Treatments for cancers, diabetes, heart disease and more are being studied through the lens of nutrigenomics, and yes, a solution for weight loss is a goal, too. In fact, a soon-to-launch company called Habit will analyze your DNA and design a diet for you, according to Popular Science.

After eating meals that Habit provides, you’ll prick your finger and send blood samples to be analyzed. That analysis may find your body processes carbohydrates best so the resulting diet would be based around that. Or, it may find you need a diet high in protein and low in carbs and fats. Your metabolism rate is analyzed, too, so calorie needs can be adjusted based on metabolism.

I find nutrigenomics fascinating and the promise of the practical uses of this science very encouraging. I do have to wonder, though, even if we have accurate information about what specific foods are optimal for our individual health, will we change our diets? Going back to my own limited knowledge about how to keep my body at a healthy weight, I know what works, but I frequently don’t do what works. Sometimes my human nature wins out over scientific knowledge. Maybe that’s in my genes, too.

credit: Robin Shreeves

Are the benefits of wheatgrass overblown?

Mosey up to the bar at a health food café or juice bar and you’ll likely find someone ordering a shot. Not a shot of tequila, mind you, but of wheatgrass.

For some people, shooting a shot of wheatgrass offers a sense of well-being, the feeling that they are gulping down something with numerous health benefits. Let’s review some of purported health benefits of wheatgrass and medical studies.

Proponents of wheatgrass claim that it can help cure:

Bronchitis (and other respiratory conditions)
Skin disorders
Digestive disorders
According to the Mayo Clinic, some supporters even believe that wheatgrass can help treat cancer, anemia, diabetes, infections and joint pain, among other health conditions.

Wheatgrass nutrients

On a macronutrient and micronutrient level (fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals), wheatgrass doesn’t seem like a health food to get excited about. A typical one-ounce serving contains only seven calories, no fat and virtually no carbohydrates and protein. Wheatgrass contains no essential omega-3 fatty acids nor does it have much vitamin content with the exception of 7 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C. A one-ounce shot also contains 10 percent DV of iron, but only a trace amount of any other well-known vitamins and minerals.

So why all the hoopla over wheatgrass? Chlorophyll — the green pigment that plays a critical role in photosynthesis, allowing plants to absorb energy from the sun — is touted by natural health advocates as an all-star health compound that increases the blood’s oxygen content.

It’s the chlorophyll, wheatgrass advocates claim, that helps rid the body of toxins, strengthens immunity and improves the micro-flora ecology of the digestive tract.

Is there any proof to back these claims?

Many cancer survivors swear by wheatgrass. But is consuming wheatgrass any more effective than, say, eating copious amounts of fresh vegetables? To date there is little scientific evidence to support wheatgrass’ nutritional merits. According to New York University’s Langone Medical Center, a small study of 24 patients with ulcerative colitis concluded that those who took a wheatgrass supplement improved their conditions versus those who took a placebo.

Another small study in the journal Indian Pediatrics concluded that patients with a form of anemia (thalassemia) required fewer blood transfusions after consuming 100 milliliters of wheatgrass daily.

An Israeli study of 60 patients with breast cancer concluded that wheatgrass juice may reduce myelotoxicity and chemotherapy dosage. The study’s preliminary results need confirmation upon further testing.
There’s little evidence that consuming wheatgrass is any more beneficial than just eating a lot of fresh vegetables.

One shot of wheat grass = 2 pounds of vegetables?

Several natural health articles and websites claim that consuming two ounces of wheatgrass contains the same nutritional composition as several servings of vegetables. But no clinical trials support this claim or other validations of wheatgrass’ positive effects on tumor shrinkage, prevention of heart disease and diabetes, or its role in the elimination of heavy metals from tissues.

Dietitian Alison Hornby, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, tells health website NHS: “There is no sound evidence to support the claim that wheatgrass is better than other fruits and vegetables in terms of nutrition. It cannot be recommended above any other choices in this food group. Although it contributes towards your recommended daily intake of fruit and veg, a single shot of wheatgrass doesn’t count as one of your 5 (vegetables) a day. But if you’re a big fan, you could combine a shot with a fruit or veg smoothie.”
A natural health website claims that Bernard Jensen, a naturopath and chiropractor who passed away in 2001 at the age of 92, wrote several natural health books and claimed that he was able to double the red blood cell count of his patients by having them soak in a chlorophyll bath. However, there are no medical studies to support Jensen’s.

Dr. Chris Reynolds, an Australian-based doctor who goes by the alias “Dr. Wheatgrass,” tells Mother Nature Network that he’s had tremendous success over the last 18 years in his practice by having his patients take a chlorophyll-free wheatgrass sprout extract.

But isn’t chlorophyll supposed to be the compound that gives wheatgrass its healing properties?

“Although chlorophyll is essential for keeping us all breathing, it has little if any physiological or positive effect on human health,” says Reynolds in an email. “The benefits of wheatgrass are largely biological, not nutritional as most purveyors of wheatgrass in its various forms would have one believe.”

Reynolds argues that there is plenty of evidence to support wheatgrass extract’s role in supporting biological functions, including one preliminary study in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research, which suggests that fermented wheatgrass extract “exerts significant antitumor activity.” The study concludes that the extract requires further evaluation as a candidate for clinical combination drug regimens.

credit: Judd Handler

Apple Spinach Protein Smoothie

This recipe calls for vegan protein powder. There are quite a few brands out there to choose from. Two of my favorites are Vega Sport, which has chocolate and vanilla flavors, and Garden of Life Raw Protein “Beyond Organic Protein Formula,” which is unflavored. I use them mostly depending on what kind of flavor I want in the smoothie. Much of the time if I want added protein without changing the flavor much, I’ll add Garden of Life. But if there’s a recipe that would benefit from the flavor — such as this recipe which is delicious with vanilla flavored powder — then I’ll use Vega Sport. It’s up to you — and you might have a different brand you really love even better. Go with what you like best.

As for spinach: Use as much spinach as you want. You can’t add too much, since it won’t do much to alter flavor. And you’ll get tons of fiber, and a boatload of nutrients and vitamins like potassium and vitamins A and K. So don’t be shy with the spinach! Also, remember to get an organic apple and leave the peel on so you can get the most nutrients from this fruit.
In all, this smoothie offers about 33 grams of protein.
Prep time: 5 minutes

Total time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 large smoothie or 2 small smoothies
Apple Spinach Protein Smoothie

1 large organic apple
3-4 cups organic spinach
1 Tablespoon organic almond butter
1 scoop (or packet) Vega Sport vanilla protein powder
1 cup unsweetened original almond milk
4-5 ice cubes
Add all the ingredients except spinach to a blender and process until smooth.
Add spinach in batches, blending a handful at a time until it is all incorporated.
Pour into a glass and enjoy!


8 signs you may have a magnesium deficiency

You’re tired and cranky. Maybe you have issues with your heart rhythm or have trouble sleeping. The problem may be caused by a lack of magnesium.

As with most nutrients, our bodies need magnesium to stay healthy. It’s found naturally in many foods, but according to the USDA, only about half of all adults get the daily recommended amount. When we don’t get enough, it’s not always obvious; the symptoms can be vague and are similar to the symptoms of many other disorders.

Here are some of the problems that can be caused by a lack of magnesium.

Nausea and vomiting

Early signs of magnesium deficiency can include gastrointestinal disturbances. This can range from a loss of appetite to nausea and vomiting.

Blood pressure

Many studies have shown a link between magnesium levels and blood pressure. In those studies, volunteers with low magnesium were more likely to have hypertension, or high blood pressure. However, research that uses magnesium therapy to treat hypertension has offered conflicting results. In some cases it has been successful, but not for all.

Sleep problems

Chronic insomnia and other sleep disorders may have a link to magnesium deficiency. Several studies have suggested that magnesium supplements may play a key role in regulating sleep.

Anxiety and depression

Some case studies have shown a link between magnesium and the nervous system. In some instances, the mineral seems to have a positive effect on stress, anxiety and some symptoms of depression.

Heart issues

Although low levels of magnesium can affect nearly every system in the body, one of the most significant impacts can be on the heart. People who are deficient in the mineral are prone to arrhythmia — or abnormal heart rhythm. In related studies, people with coronary artery disease had a higher incidence of magnesium deficiency than those without the illness.

Restless legs syndrome

The cause of RLS is often not clear, but it sometimes can be linked to an underlying medical condition such as a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Low levels of magnesium may contribute to other sleep disturbances and some small studies have shown that magnesium supplements can help with RLS.

Low energy

Several studies have suggested that too little magnesium makes the body work harder. In a recent small USDA-funded study, volunteers used more oxygen during physical activity when their magnesium levels were low. It doesn’t matter if you exercise a lot or not. “The effects are likely to occur in individuals with low magnesium, regardless of whether the person is athletic or sedentary,” says lead researcher physiologist Henry C. Lukaski. “That means that athletes wouldn’t be able to work or train as long as they would if they had better magnesium levels. People need to eat adequate magnesium to make sure their hearts and muscles are healthy enough to meet the demands of daily living.”

Muscle spasms and weakness

Magnesium has been shown to stabilize the nerve axon — the nerve fiber that transmits information away from the nerve cell body. When the amount of magnesium drops, the result is hyperresponsive neuromuscular activity which can mean muscle tremors, spasms and eventually weakness.

spinach salad with nuts – almonds are a rich source of magnesiumA spinach salad topped with almonds is a rich source of magnesium. (Photo: MSPhotographic/Shutterstock)

Where do I get magnesium?

Adult women should get about 310 mg of magnesium daily; adult men should get 400 mg. That increases to 320 mg for women and 420 for men after age 30.

You can get magnesium in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains. Generally, foods that are rich in dietary fiber usually are rich in magnesium. The mineral is also added to some fortified foods, including breakfast cereals.

Here are some good sources of magnesium, according to the National Institutes of Health:

Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 80 mg
Spinach, boiled, 1/2 cup: 78 mg
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 74 mg
Peanuts, oil roasted, 1/4 cup: 63 mg
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large: 61 mg
Soy milk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup: 61 mg
Black beans, cooked, 1/2 cup: 60 mg
Edamame, shelled, cooked, 1/2 cup: 50 mg
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons: 49 mg
Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices: 46 mg
Avocado, cubed, 1 cup: 44 mg
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces: 43 mg
Rice, brown, cooked, 1/2 cup: 42 mg
Yogurt, plan, low-fat, 8 ounces: 42 mg

Credit: Mary Jo Dilonardo

9 microgreens full of mega nutrients

You’re browsing the produce aisle, consider this: Microgreens (the young seedlings of edible veggies and herbs) might just be the best things to put in your grocery cart. Once relegated to health food stores, these nutrition-packed, delicate greens, typically harvested less than 14 days after germination, have the flavor of the grown plant but contain four to 40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts, according to a study conducted at the University of Maryland.

“Microgreens are a definite new trend in food, and lots of chefs are incorporating microgreens into their dishes,” says Gabrielle Francis, a holistic physician in New York City for more than 33 years. The goal: By harvesting these greens before they’re fully grown and developed, you’ll end up with a health-packed plate of super-healthy greens that lend an added antioxidant and phytonutrient bonus to salads, sandwiches and sides. Read on as we explore nine of the most popular microgreens to add meganutrients to your salad bowl:


This microgreen contains glucosinolates (GSLs), ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and phenols that are believed to help fend off toxins and stave off environmental stress, says Monique Richard, RD, an adjunct professor of nutrition at East Tennessee State University. “Adding the peppery spice of arugula to sandwiches, salads, smoothies or as a colorful and edible garnish can be tasty and beneficial to your health,” she says.



The shoots of this tasty herb, that’s perfect in pastas or salads, have plenty of health benefits. “Basil is rich in polyphenols that drive gut health and general good health by reducing oxidation and inflammation,” says Barry Sears, Ph.D., a leading research scientist in the field of inflammation.


While this shoot contains few calories, broccoli is a cruciferous (sulfur-containing) powerhouse, Richard says. It’s also super-versatile. “Make a pesto with it for something different,” she says. “Or simply make a spread of crudités and hummus.”


These shoots offer endless healthy benefits. “Chia are an ideal addition to your diet thanks to their healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and satiety from the protein,” Richard says.


Known for its mild flavor, clover is packed with calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Sprinkle these shoots over any salad for a tasty crunch.


Considered the new superfood, kale is known to be a vitamin C powerhouse. “If massaged with some tahini, lemon juice, dried fruit, apple cider vinegar and apples, it can be a satisfying lunch and the bitterness will subside,” Richard says.

Pea shoots

Promising seven times the vitamin C of blueberries and eight times the folic acid of bean sprouts, pea shoot microgreens are equally delicious in a strawberry salad as well as one with radishes and pickled onion, Richard says.


With their signature peppery taste, radish microgreens contain beneficial amounts of folate and B6 and make a delightful finisher to a salad composed of watermelon and avocado.

Sunflower shoots

Known for providing essential amino acids, crunchy sprouted sunflower greens contain high levels of folate, B complex vitamins and vitamins C, E and selenium. When using them in a salad, pair them with a creamy vinaigrette.

Credit: Lambeth Hochwald

15 Superfoods You Don’t Have to Buy Organic

During the last decade or so there has been a constant struggle between organic and non-organic foods; an inevitable battle of the farmers, if you will. Unfortunately this resulted in the benefits of buying organic has been proselytized and the consequential effects of buying non-organic has been inflated. However, we believe that you haven’t been told the complete truth and perhaps that’s why we are here; to inform you about the truth and to enlighten those of you that rely on organic cultivation of simple products that could be classed as ‘super-foods’ that doesn’t have to be bought organic. The major argument between organic and non-organic has always been an argument of safety and we are here to tell you that you have no need to worry about safety in regards to these 15 non-organic super-foods that we are about to present to you. Low or non-existent in pesticides, nutritional and full of vitamins and minerals, we are proud to present you our list of 15 nutritional super-foods that are non-organic and, to be honest, some of these might even surprise you.



Maple Syrup is one of the many ‘clean’ foods that are out there that doesn’t need to be bought organic since Maple Syrup is forest harvested and the chance that it contains pesticides or fertilizers is almost non-existent. Even though you may feel good about buying Maple Syrup that has an organic label on it, chances are that you are simply wasting your money on scraping out a few extra bucks for it; organic Maple Syrup is a smart way to hike up the prices a little bit.



Pineapples are great fruits for any hot summers day to have a healthy snack on, put into salad or even, if you are into Hawaiian style pizza, as a delicious topping but it’s also one of the foods that you do not have to buy organic. The pineapple’s tough, spiky, inedible skin creates an excellent barrier to stop pesticides from reaching the inner flesh. We can assure you that when buying a pineapple you have no need to worry but just remember to pick a firm one with fresh green leaves for the best flavor.



Next on our list of the 15 clean super-foods is seafood. Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids and various vitamins, this has to be a constant inclusion into everyone’s diet. Well, as for buying it organic, there really is no need since the USDA does not have certain specifications for ‘organic’ fish and shellfish. However, seafood may still contain traces of contaminants such as mercury so it’s best to buy those that contain none or extremely little such as oysters, sole and tilapia.



This delicious creamy fruit is deemed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as being one of the safest non-organic products that you can buy since it has a fairly thick skin which blocks pesticides. EWG spokesperson, Alex Formuzis, says, “Foods that have to be peeled, like bananas and avocados, tend to have a much lower number of residues when those foods have been prepared to eat.” Just remember to thoroughly rinse your avocados before cutting in to them to remove all surface pollutants.



Onions are a necessary ingredient in almost all dishes that we cook daily. Onions also have a variety of health benefits and are classed as antibacterial. Luckily, for us, onions are also one of the safest foods that we can consume since the EWG’s 2014 “Shoppers guide to pesticides in produce” claims that 98% of onions that they had tested had been pesticide free and it’s no surprise since onions are are grown under ground and their pungent flavor naturally repels most pests.



This yellowish red, sweet fruit is a must have since it’s rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C that supplies 21% and 61% of your daily requirements respectively. Since it also possesses an inedible skin you can rest assured that buying this fruit without an organic label is a good buy. The peel reduces the amount of pesticides that could infiltrate the soft, sweet flesh inside. As always, just remember to rinse your mango properly before cutting into it and enjoy.



An excellent source of vegetarian protein, this grain that mainly comes from Andean import has progressed from a seldom known ingredient to an essential in many kitchens. Having many benefits for health this grain also has another ability which insures that the need to buy it organic becomes completely obsolete. Carolyn Dimitri, an associate professor of food studies at the University of New York, has this to say about quinoa, “People may use pesticides, but quinoa doesn’t need them, since it has a coating that contains bitter-tasting saponins, making the crop nearly impermeable to pests.” So rest assured that you won’t be consuming any contaminants since quinoa takes care of pests by itself.



Surprise, surprise that the USDA found no chemicals on almost all of the samples of sweet corn that they tested. This all-year round veggie isn’t only delicious but also has the benefit of being sold as frozen in the cooler months as it gets processed in the height of the season and then immediately packed to retain it’s wonderful flavor and freshness. Alex Formuzis also has this to say about sweet corn, “The pesticide residue profiles for sweet corn—fresh or frozen—are very similar. Generally neither form of corn has very many pesticides on it.” It is for these reasons that you can be at peace when buying sweet corn without the organic label.



The smell from cooking this veggie is unmistakable and anyone that has ever cooked cabbage can attest to it. Some people love it and others hate it but cabbage is also one of the ‘clean’ foods that are out there. Just as quinoa, this vegetable inherently contains chemicals that naturally repel pests and even if it does receive some pesticide spray, the inner leaves are shielded by the outer leaves that usually get discarded upon preparation. Discarding these leaves also mean that this produce doesn’t need to be bought organic.



The brown skin that covers this small, fuzzy fruit is edible and full of nutrients, however, if you choose the non-organic path it is best to discard it since the skin protects the green tangy flesh inside from all forms of pesticides. An excellent choice for fruit salads, smoothies and as an addition to yogurt, you simply can’t go wrong by choosing this fruit on your exploration on non-organic super-foods.



Frozen sweet peas are also a pretty safe bet since when they get processed the outer shell gets thrown away. This outer shell prevents any chemicals from reaching the small, round peas on the inside and thus, frozen sweet peas are excellent for your health. They have many benefits which include containing a high amount of coumestrol which has been proven to prevent stomach cancer and can aid in weight management among many other things.



Also commonly referred to as ‘Rock Melon’ the cantaloupe is a melon that has a netted appearance. The inner flesh of this fruit is a bright orange and contains many flesh-coloured seeds but thankfully, the cantaloupe is also protected from chemical contaminants by its rugged, hard outer skin. You can take a safe bet that you can buy this sweet fruit without the presence of an organic sticker.



The mushroom is an interesting vegetable to say the least. A primary fungal decomposer, it is interesting to note that the mushroom that we eat is only the fruit of the plant and that the true body of the plant lays underground in a fine network of mycelium. Mushrooms are grown on a growth substrate and generally, as a rule, pests do not attack mushrooms. They are also considered very clean because of the lack of added chemicals and because the natural growth of mushrooms results in a completely pathogen free vegetable.



A strange vegetable with a deep indigo color it might surprise you that eggplant is considered as one of the top 15 ‘cleanest’ foods that one can find. According to the EWG’s website, eggplant rates as number 41 on a scale of 1 to 51 (The lower the number, the higher the amount of pesticide). Apparently, 74.5% of all eggplant samples that were tested by the EWG contained absolutely no traces of contaminants and you can sure save a few extra bucks by buying this vegetable in the regular priced section of the store.



Once again, and what seems to be a general rule when buying ‘clean’ foods, grapefruit ranks among the top 15 for its yellowish citrus skin. At times quite bitter but nonetheless, still a tasty and healthy fruit. Grapefruit is a safe non-organic produce that ranks in at number 40 on the EWG’s ‘2014 Shoppers guide to pesticides in produce’. As always, it is a good idea to rinse your grapefruit well before cutting into it

KIND Bars Don’t Deserve The “Healthy” Label, Says FDA

“There’s healthy. There’s tasty. Then, there’s healthy and tasty.” That’s how KIND describes its products on its site — and we’ve been known to reach for plenty of those convenient and delicious bars to stave off afternoon hunger or to fuel a workout session. But now, the FDA is weighing in, saying that KIND bars may not be so healthy after all. The FDA sent a letter to the company last month (and it just went public today) warning that four of KIND’s bars do not comply with FDA labeling requirements and therefore cannot bear the “healthy” label.

The four bars in question are Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, Kind Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and Kind Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants.

One of the reasons the FDA is calling them out (you can read the full list of reasons here) is for having too much saturated fat — according to FDA regulations, a “healthy” product must have less than one gram of saturated fat per serving. These four KIND bars each contain 2.5-5 grams. While that number may be considered unhealthy by the FDA, it’s important to note that all of the bars in question are made with nuts, which contain a variety of fats, including some saturated fat. In a note posted to the brand’s website, KIND explained that nut consumption has been seen to lead to a longer life, and the New York Times deemed nuts a “nutritional powerhouse.” But, those benefits don’t sway FDA regulations.

According to the letter from the FDA, KIND LLC had 15 days to issue a reply — which it did. Now, KIND must change its labels or risk having the FDA pull the products from store shelves.

“Our team at KIND is fully committed to working alongside the FDA, and we’re moving quickly to comply with its request,” Joe Cohen, SVP of communications at KIND told us. “In addition to the four bars that the FDA identified, we’re also taking it upon ourselves to conduct a thorough review of all of our snack food labels to ensure that they’re compliant.”

Vegan Diet Best for Our Planet

A federal panel that helps set federal dietary guidelines is recommending Americans eat less meat because it’s better for the environment, sparking outrage from industry groups representing the nation’s purveyors of beef, pork and poultry.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federally appointed panel of nutritionists created in 1983, decided for the first time this year to factor in environmental sustainability in its recommendations. They include a finding that a diet lower in animal-based foods is not only healthier, but has less of an environmental impact.

The meat industry is lashing back, contending the panel has neither the authority nor the expertise to make such a judgment.

“When you talk about the lens of the dietary guidelines it’s just not appropriate for the advisory committee to enter that conversation when they were asked to look at nutrition and health science,” said Kristina Butts, executive director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) agrees, saying sustainability is a complex issue best left to a body that specializes in the environment.

“The same concern would exist if an expert sustainability committee were making nutrition policy recommendations,” Betsy Booren, NAMI’s vice president of scientific Affairs, said in a public meeting last week. “It is not appropriate for the person designing a better light bulb to be telling Americans how to make a better sandwich.”

The Agriculture Department and Department of Health and Human Services will use the committee’s report and recommendations to draft the final guidelines for 2015, due out later this year.

But even Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said sustainability is an issue that falls outside the scope of the guidelines.

“I read the actual law,” he was quoted saying in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “And what I read … was that our job ultimately is to formulate dietary and nutrition guidelines. And I emphasize dietary and nutrition because that’s what the law says. I think it’s my responsibility to follow the law.”

But members of the committee say they had free reign to discuss food supply in recommending what people should and shouldn’t be eating.

“The scope is ours to fully define,” said Barbara Millen, chairwoman of the advisory committee and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

“Because we are encouraging Americans to eat more seafood, we felt we needed to look at the sustainability of that issue as well.”

In response to the claims about a lack of expertise, Millen said the panel did bring in two domestic sustainability experts to work with the committee members.

The 571-page report says the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use than the healthy dietary pattern it suggests — one that’s rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol; and lower in red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains.

In its review of scientific studies, the committee highlighted research concluding that a vegan diet had the most potential health benefits.

“The organically grown vegan diet also had the lowest estimated impact on resources and ecosystem quality, and the average Italian diet had the greatest projected impact,” according to the report. “Beef was the single food with the greatest projected impact on the environment; other foods estimated to have high impact included cheese, milk, and seafood.”

The committee’s report says people should eat less red and processed meat because it contains saturated fats, which when over-consumed can lead to cardiovascular disease, and instead recommends Americans eat more vegetables and nuts.

But industry groups argue that meat contains protein, which helps people feel fuller for longer periods of time. Eating meat, Butts said can help people stick to their diets better.

Though consumers have never been known to strictly follow the final guidelines, NAMI’s spokesman Eric Mittenthal said the recommendations do impact federal programs like school lunches, WIC, the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, and military rations.

But Millen said industry is misunderstanding their report, and overreacting.

She said the committee mapped out three diets for Americans to use as guidelines – a vegetarian-style, a Mediterranean-style and a healthy U.S.-style diet.

“If people took the time to understand, this is not a meat-free diet and this is not vegan approach, they’d realize this is a healthy dietary pattern with three models that offers consumers a lot of choice,” she said.

The committee’s Vice Chairwoman Alice Lichtenstein said there’s also a misunderstanding in the meat industry about what the committee actually does.

“We’re tasked with delivering a report to HHS and USDA,” she said.  “We don’t know how much will be factored into the final guidelines or not. Our job is to collate and review the evidence out there and deliver it to the secretaries.”

On Tuesday, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and 70 House Republicans sent a letter to HHS and USDA urging the final dietary guidelines to be based on sound nutritional science and adhere to the charter authorized by Congress.

In the letter, the lawmakers said they believe the advisory committee “greatly exceeded their scope in developing the recommendations for the secretaries of USDA and HHS.”

“It is the responsibility of the secretaries to ensure that this advisory committee stay focused on nutritional recommendations and not the wider policy realm of sustainability and tax policy, in which members of this committee had neither expertise, evidence, nor charter,” they wrote.

HHS and USDA have extended the written comment period from April 8 to May 8 to give the public additional time to comment on the advisory committee’s report.

An HHS representative said the departments would review the report, along with input from federal agencies and public comments to develop the final 2015 guidelines.

The department would not answer questions about whether the topic of sustainability was within the committee’s purview or whether the agency plans to factor sustainability into the final guidelines.

Health Kick: Orange Matcha Smoothie (Gluten-free & Vegan)


  • 1 cup coconut milk (or other non dairy milk)
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews soaked for at least 4 hours, then drained and rinsed
  • 2-4 teaspoons matcha powder
  • 1 large handful baby greens of your choice (I used a blend of baby kale, chard and spinach)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 soft Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 handful ice


  1. Add all of the ingredients to your high-speed blender. Placing the ice in last. Blend until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.


GUIDE NUMBER ONE: Eat as much food as you want until you are satisfied, as long as you eat the right foods prepared in the right way.

“The right foods are the simplest foods that grow from the earth in their most unadulterated, organic form – fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits, sprouted seeds, raw nuts and seeds, grains, beans, legumes, pulses – and certain vegetable proteins such as tofu together with some fish or organic turkey or chicken. It’s what I call the “Diet of Abundance” – you’ll find there are dozens of perfect foods you can eat all day long and feel great! “

GUIDE NUMBER TWO: Never get fixated on weight.

“If there’s one thing I can teach you, it’s that what you resist will persist. So if you become fixated on your weight, then you’ll only make it a bigger issue for yourself. Ditch the weight issue. Forget it. It simply does not work. We’ve got more important things to do. Once you finally let the weight issue go, and adopt a new lifestyle plan, your body weight will regulate itself. Believe me, this is true. “

GUIDE NUMBER THREE: Don’t do fad diets – They don’t work in the long run.

“I’ve never seen a fad diet that really worse in the long term. Some may work in the short term but all too often, once the dieter goes off their diet, they put the weight back on to an even greater extent than before. There’s no end to the number and variations of these fad diets, and the problem I have with most of them is that they restrict too many different foods and food groups, leaving you nutritionally starved. Apart from anything else, some of them can cause a loss of essential fatty acids (EFA) – Which are actually needed for weight loss or weight management – mineral imbalances, hormonal problems, vitamin deficiencies, gastric disturbances. When you care about good health, the weight issue will fall into place.”

GUIDE NUMBER FOUR: This is a plan for LIFE.

“This simple philosophy needs to become your second nature. TO start with, you might want to carry books into the supermarket or health food store to make the right purchasing choices; use books in the kitchen at home for recipes; take it to work for referring to quick snacks; and take them to restaurants for meal ideas. The “You Are What You Eat” concepts integrate and interconnect into every realm of your life. This is your route to wellness, happiness, and a great body.”