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Food Transparency – More Than a Label

Organic, Non-GMO, Kosher, Rainforest Alliance, Halal, Fair Trade… Bird Friendly?  While these labels are nice to see on products and make us feel good when we buy them, they can get extremely confusing. We could do away with all of these certifications, and empower consumers to better navigate the food in their shopping carts in favor of just one thing; transparency.

What are Certifications Anyway?

There are over 464 certifications in 199 countries for food products according to the Ecolabel Index, ranging from Carbon-Neutral to Ocean Safe to Smithsonian-Certified Bird Friendly coffee. Even the certification consumers are most familiar with, Certified Organic, has 4 different levels of certification. Not to mention, a brand new “Regenerative Organic Certification” has entered the arena, with a pledge to go above and beyond regular organic certification to encompass soil health, fair worker treatment, and animal welfare. Sounds good, right?

The purpose of all these certifications is to inform shoppers about where their food is coming from and how it’s prepared. Certifications enable consumers to make more informed and responsible decisions about where their money goes and what they put into their bodies. However, with so many different certifications floating around, it’s becoming harder and harder for consumers to stay informed about their food.

Let’s Start with Breakfast

Take a stroll down the egg aisle, for example. Picking up a carton of eggs for breakfast doesn’t sound like a difficult task. But when you pick up a carton of eggs, you also pick up a carton emblazoned with a handful of certifications and claims, many of which are geared to make you think the eggs inside are the most incredible, earth-saving eggs you will ever eat.

 

But even if the eggs you pick up (and pay top dollar for) are cage-free, organic, and non-GMO, chances are high that the hens who laid them had a single foot of living space in an over-crowded warehouse somewhere – the minimum requirements for making those claims. If you take another step up the certification ladder and buy eggs that are free range, it could mean they had a whole two square feet of space with a tiny “pop-hole” to look out of. And, with the exception of pasture-raised eggs, cage-free eggs aren’t shown to have any better nutrient content than those without additional certifications anyway.

So, Do the Certifications Mean Anything?

Many shoppers use certifications to ensure the food they are eating, eggs or otherwise, is high-quality, healthy, and safe. But with the CDC estimating nearly 1 in 6 Americans get sick and 3,000 die from food borne diseases every year, it doesn’t seem like certifications are the solution to ensuring food is healthy or safe.

The current system isn’t exactly working for businesses either. A single food recall can cost a business $10 million on average. And they’re increasing at an alarming rate:

“Food products recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration skyrocketed 92.7 percent since 2012, and recalled pounds regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which largely oversees meat production, jumped 83.4 percent in the same period.” – Stericycle Recall

In addition to recalls, food fraud, defined as “fraudulent, intentional substitution or addition of a substance in a product for the purpose of increasing the apparent value of the product or reducing the cost of its production”, costs the food industry $10-15 billion a year. And oftentimes, small producers don’t have the time or money to get their products certified, though they meet qualifications for it.

With certifications, consumers and businesses put their trust in independent organizations and government agencies to ensure that their food is safe. But plenty slips through the cracks. Regulations change and certifications stop meaning what consumers think. Businesses lie about how they treat their animals to charge higher prices on certified products. The USDA has revokedonly a dozen organic certifications from American companies in the last 10 years.

 

Why is Food Traceability the Solution?

Food traceability is no fad – it’s going to be around for a long time. With recent technological advances, big-name companies are throwing resources into developing reliable ways to trace food through the supply chain. In 2016 IBM announced that they were partnering with 10 food giants including Wal-Mart, Unilever, Nestle, and Dole to use blockchain technology to create a transparent supply chain, and they’re currently testing this out on mangosand pork. For businesses, food traceability means less concerns about safety recalls and higher efficiency for their business.

Traceability isn’t just good for big business – small food producers can benefit, too. By using traceability to increase transparency for consumers purchasing their products, producers can build brand loyalty, connect more closely with their customers, and get better information on how their products are performing.

Food traceability can ease the minds of consumers, too. Shoppers picking up a product at the market and wondering “is this product fresh?” or “are these eggs really what I think they are?” could simply scan a code on the packaging and see the path the product took – from the farm to their table.

Transparency and Seeing the Future

The U.S. government agrees that transparency is the way to go, too – the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, one of the biggest sweeping acts of reform to hit U.S. food safety laws in years, will require food businesses to take accountability to prevent food safety issues.

Most food products will be required to be accompanied by Food Safety and Food Defense plans, detailing (among other things) how food safety concerns should be addressed for the product. It also includes traceability recommendations for businesses and requires the FDA to conduct pilot tests on food traceability for new regulations down the line. Food businesses have to be compliant with the new laws between 2018-2022, with more to come.

In the very near future, the government and consumers will demand transparency. While creating transparency and traceability in the food supply chain won’t fix every problem the food industry has, it will tackle a lot of them – from rapidly dropping consumer trust to the growing frequency and cost of food recalls and food fraud.

When companies are forced to be transparent, consumers will have the autonomy to vote with their wallets, using the power of capitalism to shake out the bad apples (and eggs) from the good.

 

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Olive Oil – Extra Virgin? Not Quite.

Ah, olive oil. It’s healthy, it’s delicious – just opening a bottle puts our cooking ability on par with that of a professional chef. Some people take shots of it every morning. Two women who lived to be over 120 years old both said drinking it was the key to a long life (along with wine and chocolate – now that’s some health advice I’m happy to take!). But if you’ve purchased olive oil from a grocery store, the chances are very high that you aren’t buying what you think you are. And certainly not the good stuff that could help you live longer.

In fact, consumers in the U.S. are so familiar with rancid, low-quality olive oil that they will pick it out of line during a taste test because it’s what they’re used to. Instead of a fresh, grassy, fragrant, buttery, or even peppery smell with hints of fruitiness, we are used to oils that are musty, greasy, and thin.

If you’re not sure you know what good olive oil tastes like, visit a specialty olive oil store. They often offer tastings of their products, and can show you what to look for. We’ll go into more depth later about what to look for in olive oils, since even some of these stores lack good, fresh options.

On a personal note, if you take away one thing from this article, I hope it’s to learn what olive oil is supposed to taste like and how to pick out a good bottle. Do it for me. I personally have shed a tear over a roommate using my fancy olive oil to season a pan, and I’m not ashamed… Okay, maybe I am a little. But I digress – please go find a specialty olive oil store near you and go taste some. Your life will never be the same.

Let’s start with some basics about olive oil.

Olives are picked and crushed into a paste by stones, or more commonly by steel blades. The paste is then stirred to release droplets of olive oil before being spun around at high speeds in a centrifuge to remove the oil and water from the olives. Finally, water is removed until just the oil remains.

If the end oil is unrefined, such as extra virgin and virgin oils, the process ends there and the oil is bottled and shipped. Only the best olives are used for unrefined oils. If the olives are of lesser quality, more processing is required. This oil is further refined using chemicals and heat to neutralize the taste of the oils, as lesser quality olives produce a more bitter and less desirable taste. These oils are often labeled as “Pure Olive Oil” or simply “olive oil.”

So if Pure Oil and Olive Oil mean it’s bad stuff, what about the good stuff? That’s from Italy, right?

It’s a common misconception that only good olive oil comes from Italy. The reality is that Italy is just the biggest importer and exporter of it. Both good and bad olive oils can come from Italy, and there’s also amazing oils that come from countries like Spain, Greece, Tunisia, and (my personal favorite) Australia. Italy just happens to bottle and ship the vast majority of it, which feeds the misconception.

The best and highest quality olive oils are labeled “extra virgin,” which means that they contain pure, cold-pressed olive oils instead of a blend of lower quality, processed oils. That’s why the taste of extra virgin olive oil is stronger and more pronounced than regular olive oil. It’s also the only label that requires any sort of inspection, and must pass lab analysis and testing conducted by the International Olive Council in Madrid.

Neat, so just look for “extra virgin” olive oil and I’m good to go?

Nope, sorry! Nothing can ever be simple when it comes to food. Unfortunately, seeing extra virgin on the label isn’t a guarantee of quality. According to a study in 2010, 69% of imported extra virgin olive oils that were tested failed to meet USDA standards. Often, companies pass off lower quality olive oil as extra virgin – and there’s plenty of room in the supply chain for mixups.

Remember how Italy imports, bottles, and exports most of the olive oil? In November of 2015, seven of Italy’s best-known olive oil companies (does the name Bertolli ring a bell?) were investigated for passing off low quality oils from other countries as extra virgin Italian olive oil. This multi-million dollar systemic fraud case was busted by an investigation codenamed (no joke) Operation “Mamma Mia.” There are even ties to mafia involvement within the Italian olive oil industry. The price tag for extra virgin olive oil rings up at around 30-40% more than the cost of regular oil, which is more than enough for fraudsters to want a taste.

Okay, so sometimes olive oil isn’t totally pure and extra virgin. Kinda crummy, but not exactly unsafe. Why should I care?

In the best cases, “fake” olive oil is labeled incorrectly as extra virgin, or has been mixed with oils that have been sitting around from the previous years’ harvest (or longer). This is totally legal, but completely defeats the main purpose of buying olive oil – that it’s healthy. When mixed with old and often rancid oil, by the time the oil reaches the consumer it’s often lost a good chunk of its health benefits.

In the worst cases, the oil has been illegally diluted (or “cut”) with other, cheaper oils. One way to do this is to add chemically refined, low-quality olive oils. Other popular diluters are sunflower, soybean, and canola oils.  Which, if you have food allergies, is VERY bad news.

That sounds not great. So how do I make sure I’m buying good olive oil?

If you can, hit up a specialty olive oil store – they’re popping up more frequently in the U.S. and often pride themselves on letting you test their products. If it tastes good, it’s probably good.

Don’t trust labels. (This seems to be a recurring theme – check out our guides to eggs and coffee certifications and why transparency could be the solution.)

Don’t fall for terms like “natural,” “pure,” “premium,” “virgin,”or “light.” They are all marketing terms for oil that is heavily processed and lacking in the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil – though they are fine for baking or other kitchen needs where flavor doesn’t matter. And as I’m sure you learned above, even “made in Italy” doesn’t mean much. Even the bottled by dates aren’t good to go by – oil can sit in a tank for a year before it’s bottled.

So if olive oil labels aren’t any good, what do I look for?
Check for a stamp of approval.

There’s a council called the California Olive Oil Council, or COOC, that verifies, tests, and analyzes olive oils to meet high standards. If you see their seal, it means that oil has met their criteria – here’s a list of the brands they’ve approved.

Additionally, the USDA has a voluntary quality monitoring program for olive oils, though only two companies participate. If you see the USDA seal, it means the oil meets these standards.

You can also check for the European Union’s Protected of Designated Origin or Italy’s DOP.

Brush up on your geography.

If you have nothing to go off of besides the country of origin, choose Chile or Australia. These two countries scored the highest average qualities on the U.S. International Trade Commission report on conditions of major olive oil imports in the U.S.

Additionally, Australia has the best testing systems and the highest standards of all olive-oil producing countries. Both Chile and Australia have never been found to mix oils from old harvests.

Know your seasons.

Buy olive oils from regions where olives are in season. This means don’t buy from the Northern Hemisphere in the fall and winter, and don’t buy from places like Chile, Australia, or South Africa during the spring and summer.

Go dark.

Olive oil’s worst enemies are light, heat, and oxygen – they cause oil to deteriorate rapidly. Stay away from oils that are kept in clear bottles or near windows. Good olive oil is often kept in a dark tinted bottle or in a can to prevent degradation of quality. If you can’t see the color, that’s fine! High quality olive oils can come in all colors, from buttery yellow to dark green to nearly clear.

Awesome! Now I have a great bottle of oil – what do I do with it?

Store it in a dark place that’s temperature-stable and not too hot. An unopened bottle can be kept in a cool, dark place for a year or two, but after it’s open make sure to use it within a few months before oxidation causes it to go rancid.

But don’t worry too much – once you have a fragrant, grassy, buttery olive oil at your cooking disposal, it probably won’t make it more than a few months before it’s all gone!

 

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The Path of Produce from the Farm to the Store

Think about your favorite grocery store and mentally go through the aisles. Appreciate the products that are there. Now, as you pick your favorite fresh fruit or vegetable, imagine the story of where it was grown, how it was picked, and the events that took place to get it in the store.

I would not have been able to imagine this process if I was asked a few years ago. I was blind to the steps and unaware of the complexity of our food system. Today, we will discuss more generally how a piece of produce might end up at your store.

We have a few key players in this story:

1)   The farmer
2)   Post-harvest methods
3)   A regional distribution center
4)   The retailer (aka, the store or restaurant)
5)   Finally, you – the consumer.

Meet the farmers and the decisions they must make:

  • A product is chosen. The farmer must decide what will be grown and the variety of the product they are growing. Choosing the plant variety can depend on the plant’s tolerance to the farmer’s growing environment, temperature, time of year, location, resistance to disease, and type of production.
  • Planting methods are executed. Plants have different seeding, transplanting, and growth cycle needs. Farmers must decide how they will address those needs based on cost, their production capabilities, technology of the farmers, and the intent to optimize the environment of the crops. They must determine the right time of year, soil conditions, plant spacing, irrigation methods, fertilization, and pesticide use.
  •  Harvesting. When the produce is ready to harvest, farmers must choose appropriate harvesting containers, equipment, and transportation to be efficient and clean.1 In most scenarios, the harvest containers get transported to a packinghouse where they will be prepared for the next step.

Post-harvest methods:

  • After harvest, time is of the essence to make sure the produce is as fresh as possible. At the packinghouse or shed, the environment must be well controlled, and there are deliberate techniques to transfer the product into the facility.
  •  It is common for post-harvest facilities to prepare the produce to be transported to a processing center where it is inspected, cleaned, and assessed for quality. Often, preservation is emphasized through cooling measures, slow respiration, water-loss techniques, and/or the use of salt, sugar, or other chemical preservatives.2
  •  Farmers need to ensure the crop they are shipping is optimal maturity by the time it hits the store, not necessarily when it is picked. Destination location plays a role in the timing of the harvest. In addition, size, color, firmness/tenderness, days of bloom, heat accumulation, and other considerations must be taken in account to provide a product consumers would want to buy. 2
  •  Information is gathered on all the produce coming into to identify the grower/supplier, the date of the harvest, the field, the shift, and production records to be able to trace products when transported. 3
  •  Packaging must protect the items, be appealing for sale, and promote a clean environment to reduce contamination risk. When packaging, the products are put in bags, crates, baskets, cartons, bulk bins, hampers, and/or palletized containers. It is has been reported there are more than 1,500 different types of packing for produce in the United States.4
  •  Transportation is the next stop of the produce story. The products must be transported s through non-damaging and non-contaminating means. The transportation vehicle must be free of debris, maintain proper humidity and temperature levels, and loaded in a way that minimizes storage time and maximizes accessibility to get fresh-cut produce to the shelf as quickly as they can.5

Regional distribution centers:

  • Distribution centers are locations where food is collected and redistributed to retailers, wholesalers, or directly to the consumers.These centers face the challenge of ensuring the food-safety regulations continue to be followed. Centers report organic regulation, ensure Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points compliance (HACCP is a systematic preventive approach required by the FDA and USDA to promote food safety in the production processes), and log food defense and vulnerability. Employee training and awareness programs are necessary to help keep the products up to industry standards.6
  •  The food industry requires consistent deliveries of the right products, in the right quantity, in the right condition, to the right place, at the right time, and for the right cost.7 With the regional distribution of food from all over the country and world, this can be a great challenge for ordering, processing, and transporting foods. Distribution centers means food products that are seasonal can  still be present in the store. 7
  • When food leaves the distribution centers, it most often travels to retailers or wholesalers. It has been reported that meals in the United States travel about 1,500 miles to get from farm to plate. 8

Our journey is almost complete! Meet the retailers and the hero of our story – you, the consumer!

  • Once delivered, it is the job of the retailer to inspect, display, and store produce to maintain shelf-life, while still promoting healthy standards. Stores order and reorder inventory to ensure they have the produce consumers want in stock and looking fresh.
  • In-season produce  may be purchased more locally, therefore bypassing distribution centers. This can be why you might see sales or signs for locally grown products in the summer, because they are more available to the retailer.
  • Finally, the journey ends with you making your food purchase!

This is a very watered-down synopsis of the general path a food item might take to get to your plate. There are many players and stops involved to take produce from farm to table. This is why you may be hearing an increasing demand from consumers to be able to track and follow the supply chain of their food. With so many twists and turns, as a consumer it can be difficult to know the true quality of an item.

Efforts are being made to improve the efficiency and standards for food traceability in hopes of reducing contamination risks, promoting local sourcing and better farming practices, improving environmental awareness, reducing packing and transportation consequences, and more. The journey of food can be long, but being educated on the process can help direct our food choices – and may help to create the demand for a more direct and more efficient system.

  1. http://www.greentechchallenge.eu/single-post/2017/07/04/From-Farm-to-Table-%E2%80%93-The-Food-Shipping-Process
  2. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/guides/texas-vegetable-growers-handbook/chapter-x-harvesting-handling/
  3. https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ProducePlantProducts/ucm064458.htm#ch4
  4. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/packaging-requirements-for-fresh-fruits-and-vegetables
  1. https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ProducePlantProducts/ucm064458.htm
  2. https://www.aibonline.org/Food-First-Blog/PostId/25/risky-business-food-safety-in-distribution-centers
  3. Aghazadeh, S.M. Improving Logistics Operations Across the Food Industry Supply Chain. Int. J. Contemp. Hosp. Manag. 2004, 16, 263–268.
  4. https://cuesa.org/learn/how-far-does-your-food-travel-get-your-plate


About the Author:

Alex Uding, PT, DPT, PN1

Co-host of Know Better Live Best, Writer, Creator of Advancing Her (https://www.advancingher.com/)

Alex works with healthy and injured individuals alike, across the lifespan. She has special interest in orthopedic and sports rehab, women’s health, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and development of the female athlete. She is passionate about bridging the gap between rehabilitation and optimizing performance to promote a lifestyle of health and wellness through compassionate, person-centered care.

Alex loves to run, hike, and travel – visiting every national park is on the bucket list! She enjoys exploring new places, culture, food, music, and people. She is Chicago born and raised, but has lived all over the country. She loves hearing people’s story and what makes them tick.

Alex has a Doctorate of Physical Therapy, is Precision Nutrition Certified, and is a Strength and Performance Coach. She works as a Physical Therapist and Performance Coach at Momentum Physical Therapy in Milford, MA.

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Food Transparency – Why settle for less?

Understanding where your food originates from may not be something that many think of but when you grow up on a farm, it is literally right in front of you. Whether it be from raising your own beef to knowing where each of the cucumbers which are being made into pickles originated, it is a clear and often short pathway.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture however, less than two percent of Americans now actually live on farms. This leaves 98% of our population consuming food without the knowledge of where their food originated, how it was processed and at times even when it was harvested. If this sounds like a concern to you, you are not wrong because it clearly is a problem.

 

For me, life has been different than those who live in cities. I grew up on a farm in French Lick, Indiana where we raised cattle, horses, chickens, ducks, corn, soybeans and wheat. My parents were both incredibly hard workers and my dad was a business entrepreneur. In addition to the farm, my parents owned a grocery store and a restaurant. Both businesses were heavily family operated and I can actually remember carrying out groceries at the age of five – probably even before that actually. My memories are that I was very helpful to my family. The truth, however, is not easily seen when you are that young.

My parents didn’t just have a garden, they had two of them and they were not your ‘normal’ sized gardens. Each garden was a few acres in size and they were worked daily. Mom was an incredible cook who fed five kids, four of them growing boys, without ever seemingly breaking a sweat. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all came mainly from the farm. Canning, freezing and butchering were all just part of life and in my thoughts anyway, normal. Although the meats stocked at Roach’s Market were purchased, they were from local butchers who harvested, processed and sold their meats fresh. Dad would purchase everything from fresh Italian sausage to ribeyes to turkeys from wholesalers within about an hour radius of their store. Oh, and all of the ground beef was processed right there in the store. That is the way it was, it seemed normal but actually wasn’t.

Knowing where our food has originated and the path it has taken to the tables of our families may seem like a formidable task and the truth is that it is not an easy treck to follow. The good news however is that it is possible and with that possibility is an opportunity for each individual and their families. We all want to provide the absolute best for our families and we may actually think this is being done but prepackaged meats in large box stores may not be of the quality that is expected. This is not a slam on large box stores, this is a look at the reality that may very well exist.

Is it possible to bring transparency back to the food families are consuming? The answer is yes which then raises another question… if transparency is possible then why would anyone settle for less? The answer is simple, we as consumers cannot settle for less. It is time that everyone expects and demands more. Why? For ourselves, for our families, for a healthier lifestyle.

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According to WebMD… I Have What?!

Think of a time you haven’t felt well. Let’s say you have a sore throat, dizziness, swollen glands, and feel achy all over. You are miserable and you just want to start feeling better. Unsure of what may be going on, you go to your phone and you type in your symptoms, yielding 66 results that say you have anything from the common cold, to strep, to cancer.

How do you use all the information that is provided? How do you narrow it down?

It isn’t easy. Navigating the world of health and wellness can be very challenging because it is chock-full of information. We are very fortunate to live in a time when information is more easily available than it used to be and advancements in medicine have given us a better understanding health and wellness – but with a tradeoff. Often it feels like it’s left up to us to make sense of it all.

Our ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions is known as health literacy. 1 However, with all of this information readily available, only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy, meaning the majority of people may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease.2

Why does this matter?

Health Literacy is critical to managing your health and living your best life! Our proficiency and understanding of it can:

  • Influence the way we work through the healthcare system and the services we seek out
  • Help us understand our own bodies, self-care, and preventative behaviors/choices
  • Improve our communication with health care professionals and providers
  • Assist with decision making and understanding of information
  • Help us seek out care in more timely and efficient manners

When you have a foundation of health literacy, it becomes much easier to understand what questions to ask about your health, who to talk to, and when to seek help. Having health literacy can literally save your life. But the road to understanding health is full of many twists, turns, and trap doors.

How can we improve our health literacy?

Determine what is important to you. Reflecting on what our priorities are can help direct how we seek out information and care. The following questions can be used as a guide:

  • What are the areas of health and wellness you feel are critical?
  • What are the important things you want to discuss or learn about?
  • What areas do you feel less confident in or want more information on?
  • What are your biggest concerns?
  • What are the barriers you are experiencing in your health wellness?

Answering questions like these can help you form a better understanding of your current knowledge base, encourage you to be a self-advocate for your health, and reveal gaps to fill in your health literacy.

Form a team. Find health and wellness providers who make you feel comfortable, communicate well, and provide you with the information you have reflected on above. There are a wide variety of experts in the various avenues of health and wellness – choose a team that supports your different areas of health. Some things to look for in a good health and wellness provider are:

  • Active listening
  • Asking follow-up questions to what you say
  • Providing perspectives in regards to their expertise
  • Guiding you to resources
  • Being an advocate for you and your health

Sometimes you may not find your team on the first try, and that’s fine! Finding a provider you trust and can understand will improve your health. One bad experience with a type of professional does not mean that should be a reflection on the whole field. Take the extra effort to find who you work well with and don’t be afraid to ask others to help you find your team – you are worth it!

Stand Up For Yourself! Health care should be treated as a partnership – the health care professional is the consultant, but you carry out the plan. You have to communicate to direct the health professional’s understanding and awareness to your needs and life. Make your care an active discussion, express fears and concerns, and always know you can speak up. Good health care professionals (the kind you want on your team) will respect you and listen. Take advantage of your time with them. In addition, if an interpreter is needed, please request one. Tell the medical provider prior to your first visit that an interpreter is needed and one will be provided. At the end of the day, you are the number one advocate for your health.

Repeat information back and ask questions. The information you get at your appointment is going to help you make informed decisions about what is best for you at the time. Having someone with you to take notes (or taking notes/recording the conversation yourself) can help you collect and recall information. If something is unclear, repeat back to the provider what your interpretation of their words are. This will help you both get on the same page. Prior to an appointment or between appointments, write your questions down. This can help you to recall important points you want more information on and can help make the visit more efficient. Sharing your questions with loved ones and other health professionals can help direct the visit, especially when decisions are complex. If there are lingering questions after, don’t be afraid to call your provider’s office. It is okay to ask for answers.

Develop a network of resources. A lot of good information is out there, but sometimes we need direction in knowing what we can trust. Ask your trusted professionals about resources they use. Every health professional has their own network, sites, journals, and fellow professionals they know and trust. Let professionals help you build your own network. Additionally health professionals often have colleagues nation- and world-wide – you never know who they can get you in touch with.

To get started on developing your network, here is a list  of health resources and professionals in performance, nutrition, mental health, and wellness.

Assess Your Information Sources

Remember, online information is meant to complement your knowledge – itt should not be the sole resource in your health decision making. But when you do seek knowledge online, keep in mind some of these considerations to help you to assess the accuracy of material you are reading:

  • Who wrote or created the site? What is their background? Are they credible?
  • What is the site promoting? Does it make sense? Does it seem possible?
  • How up to date is the research and resources? Are there citations?
  • Where is the information they are promoting coming from?
  • Is there a financial gain that can be made from the site? Are they trying to promote their product?
  • Can you communicate with the site? Are other professionals interacting with the site?

Inaccurate, conflicting, and confusing information can be a big barrier in health literacy. There is a lot of wonderful information available, but it is also important to know when more information may be needed.  Here is a resource that can help you better assess what you are reading and whether it is missing any essential information.

At Know Better, Live Best we want to help you live your best life. Navigating health literacy can be challenging, which is why we want to be part of the solution. We are dedicated to being a resource for you.If there a topic or question you want more information on, please reach out to us. We will do our best to find an answer or direct you to someone who can help. Together we can start creating a culture that is proficient in health literacy. Let’s make a culture of wellness the norm.

  1.   https://nnlm.gov/initiatives/topics/health-literacy
  2.   https://health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm#six
  3.   https://www.advancingher.com/resources
  4.   https://nccih.nih.gov/health/know-science/facts-health-news-stories
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Food Transparency – A Call to Action and What It Means to You

The good news – Americans are becoming more interested and aware of the food we consume and why informed nutrition is important.

The bad news – The road to informed nutrition and food literacy is confusing and intricate. 
There is a lot of information on the type of foods we should eat, the quantities we should consume, the next big trending diet, eating to manage illnesses, and how to eat well to live a long and disease-free life. These topics are important, complex, and often heavily debated. However, this article isn’t about that.

Today, we are going to focus on the basics: food and where it comes from. At Know Better Live Best, we could spend hours talking about just this (and often do!) and we will dive deeper into some of these issues in the future. But for now, let’s keep it at the basics.

What is food transparency?

Access to knowledge about where food comes from – this includes origins of the seeds, the farm the food came from and its procedures,, environmental conditions, worker conditions, sustainability practices, packaging, production, and sale. Like every system, each step along the way is important and influences the next. Food often is not simply brought from the farm to the store where you purchase it. Our food system is incredibly intricate and complex, and much can get lost along the way – making true food transparency an extraordinarily difficult feat.

According to the 2016 Label Insight Food Revolution Study, the majority of people want transparency in the food system. There is a growing demand to improve our system and better the health of our society. Of the 1,500 consumers surveyed in the study mentioned above, 94% of respondents reported it is important to them that the brands and manufacturers they buy from are transparent about what is in their food and how it is made. The good news is, consumer demand for transparency is sparking a change in the food industry. And with new technology, a transparent food supply chain is within our reach.

Which brings us to our excitement about our partnership Bytable Foods.

Bytable Foods uses blockchain and IoT technologies to trace where food is coming from. They’re tracking how food was grown, processed, distributed, and how it ended up at your local store. And they’re making this information available to consumers like you – by scanning a QR code on the food package, you can see the entire journey of your food from the farm to your table, certification information, packaging dates, and the practices of the producer.

We believe that food transparency built on trustworthy information is the key to transforming our food system into one that works better for everyone in it. And we are so excited to see Bytable Foods making it happen.

Food transparency data can be used for many other things that benefit our society overall. By building traceability and transparency into our food system food outbreaks can be contained sooner,eating to prevent and manage illness can become easier, choosing what we use to fuel performance can improve,labels will be easier to read, and nutrition quality will be held to a higher standard.

Because when consumers are given the information and power to choose where their money goes, they can give back to their local communities, support companies that align with their values, and vote with their dollars and voices for a better and more sustainable food system.

“Food transparency,” is a buzzword these days – but we hope this article has helped you understand the hype. When our food system supports transparency, you can have a say in the food you consume and the companies you support. Bytable Foods and Know Better, Live Best are here to help you live your best life. We will continue to dive into the world of nutrition and food industry as we go, but we first wanted to introduce you to our passion.

What is your passion? How can living well help you achieve it? And how can we help?

1.https://www.labelinsight.com/hubfs/Label_Insight-Food-Revolution-Study.pdf?hsCtaTracking=fc71fa82-7e0b-4b05-b2b4-de1ade992d33%7C95a8befc-d0cc-4b8b-8102-529d937eb427

2. https://www.bytablefoods.com/

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