Ari LeVaux

Forget Tofurky: How to Have a Better Meatless Thanksgiving

As the days get short and we dig in for the holidays, I find myself pondering the Tofurky, and how we got here. Tofurky was designed to resemble a baked stuffed turkey with gravy, and it would, if a stuffed turkey resembled a plant-based cheese combo.

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I Have Tasted the Future of Fake Meat: Amazingly, It Did Not Suck

I have tasted the future of fake meat. Amazingly, it did not suck.

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The Paleo Diet Fad Has Spun Totally Out of Control - and It's Giving Neanderthals a Bad Rap

The Paleolithic diet has taken the world by storm in recent years, and modern man has eagerly cashed in on the growing desire to eat primitively. The paleo industry is expected to rake in $300 million a year by the end of 2018. According to a trade group known as the Paleo Foundation, one big growth segment of the industry is paleo/vegan crossover products. It conjures an image of a flock of free range tofurkys, which surely must have been a favorite of our vegan ancestors who wanted to pretend to be eating meat. The range of Certified Paleo Products include paleo granola, paleo mushroom coffee and cold-brew wellness teas, paleo gluten-free pizza crust, paleo Filipino pili nuts with Himalayan sea salt...you get the pictograph.

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The Ultimate Global Warmer's 3-Course Dinner

If you’re the kind of person who would make a lifestyle change based on its impact on the climate, you’re probably already aware that your food choices impact the molecular balance of the atmosphere in ways pertinent to life as we know it. By some estimates, half of human greenhouse gas emissions are released by the production, transport, preparation and consumption of food. And thanks to population growth and economic development around the world, that portion is steadily growing.

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Polar Peaches? Climate Change Is Pushing Tree-Planting Zones Northward

This is the time of year to think about planting trees. It's a powerful, important and often fruitful thing to do, as well as a seriously long-term commitment. Planting a tree requires a deep look into the future, and the making of decisions based on one's best guess for what that future holds.

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Hipsters Are Treating Farmers Markets Like a Dating Scene - And It May Be Bad for Business

People go to farmers markets for many reasons. The festive yet wholesome atmosphere makes us feel good about our communities. We might bump into that person we’ve been meaning to call, and perhaps buy a bar of soap. A burrito, perhaps, and a fresh-squeezed lemonade. And sometimes, we even want to buy some produce. A bag of salad mix, perhaps, and hope it doesn’t wilt before we skateboard home. But produce shopping is becoming an increasingly rare act, according to a recent Washington Post article

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The Most Meat-Like Veggie Burger Ever Has Been Unveiled - and It's Dripping With Plant-Based Blood

Vegetarians no longer have to fake their hamburgasms. The debut of the most meat-like veggie burger ever, at Momofuku Nishi in New York City, has made a big, bloody splash in the food world—and especially in the burgeoning plant-based foods community.

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6 Chemical Food Additives That Are Legal in America and Banned Abroad

There is a long list of food additives that are legal in the U.S., despite being illegal in other countries. To be fair, just because something is banned in one country doesn’t necessarily mean that the non-banning countries have it wrong. But for the most part, the influence that the food industry exerts on the Food and Drug Administration and a confusing bureaucratic process are at the heart of the problem.

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Why Did Media Outlets Try to Convince Us That Vegetarianism Causes Cancer? Here's the Diet That Can

Different diets work for different people. That's one of the primary takeaways from a fascinating new study from Cornell University, which showed how human genetics customize to specific diets over generations, optimizing the body for the metabolism of certain foods.

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Attention Vegans: Your Salad Was Probably Grown With the Blood and Bones of Dead Animals

Meat lovers will be forgiven if they feel like the wagons are circling around their protein of choice. The raising of animals for food has been implicated in a host of ethical, environmental, humanitarian and animal welfare problems, while eating animals is increasingly blamed for various health problems.

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Bad News for Sweets Lovers: Your Sugar Habit May Cause Breast Cancer

As if sugar doesn’t have enough PR problems, a new study published in January suggests it encourages the growth and spread of breast cancer tumors in rats. Common sugar is half fructose and half glucose, and the researchers showed that the fructose half shows particularly carcinogenic activity. This is similar to recent evidence that pancreatic cancer cells can distinguish between fructose and glucose — and perform better when fed the former.

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Intermittent Fasting Can Sharpen Your Brain and Help You Live Longer

The new year is a popular time to contemplate our relationship to calories, usually with the goal to reduce caloric intake. But in the last decade, our understanding of how the body deals with these units of energy has grown considerably. So here’s a look at what it means to eat a calorie in 2016.

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Could Your Dinner Be a Recipe from the Global Warmer's Cookbook? Maybe It's Time to Go 'Climatarian'

About a third of the earth’s greenhouse gas pollution can be linked to food, including its production, processing, packaging, transport, storage and preparation. As climate change becomes a mainstream concern, and people keep obsessing about food, it was inevitable that a new flavor of eater would emerge—a buzzword that made the New York Times list of top new food words. 

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6 Kinds of Healthy Foods That Become Unhealthy in High Doses

One would think, as research on diet and health continues to pile up, we might start inching toward consensus about what is good to eat, and what isn’t. But in many cases the opposite is happening. We can’t even agree on the essential goodness or badness of basic food elements like fat or carbohydrates, with each side enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet of studies to back up its case. When you factor in other considerations, like the environmental, social and other moral impacts of various foods, things get even more complicated. A recent Washingon Post column even argued against the nutritional and environmental benefits of salad.

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How Coca Cola's Obesity PR Stunt Blew Up in the Company's Face

The soft drink industry is in a full-blown crisis. Soda sales are on a 10-year skid, and laws are being passed to tax and limit their sales, thanks to a growing consensus among health researchers that sugary beverages are the primary culprits behind obesity and related conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Coca Cola’s PR tactics have become increasingly desperate and insidious. A 2013 television commercial suggested that the 139 calories in a can of Coke could be burned by 75 seconds of laughing out loud, or a celebratory dance while bowling, claims that were roundly criticized at the time. It recently came out that Coke is using a similar tactic, but with a more serious, respectable veneer, when the New York Times reported the company’s undisclosed ties to the nonprofit astroturf group Global Energy Balance Network, a relationship that included lots of money, and even secretly registering the GEBNs website on its own domain.

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The Local Food Movement Has Tripled in 20 Years, and Now Critics Are Taking Cheap Shots

In the last 20 years, the amount of local foods consumed in the American diet has tripled, according to USDA, and now comprises two percent of food consumed in the U.S. As with anything that’s popular, some have seen fit to tear it down. Why? Do they find the locavores annoying, or do they seriously believe, as many argue, that local food enthusiasts pose a threat to the planet?

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The Movement To Stop Food From Being Wasted Is Booming

Ron Clark is no stranger to food waste. After more than 20 years of working to supply fresh produce to California’s food banks, he knows every point along the route from farm to table where produce gets plucked from the human food chain, for cosmetic reasons, and composted, fed to pigs, or buried in a landfill.  Clark was filling 60-80 truckloads per week with recovered food, bringing 125 million pounds of perfectly healthy produce to hungry food bank clients, by the time he left the food bank system. Today he looks on in awe at a new wave of innovators looking to tackle the problem of food waste. Most of them are 20-somethings fresh out of college, he told me. And they’re using business models, rather than nonprofits, to get it done.

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Whoa: Huge Number of Nutritional Experts May Be Bought off by the Big Junk Food Companies

According to a new report, many scientific studies about nutrition, as well as the trusted experts who disseminate this information to the public, are being funded by the very entities that should be scrutinized. The report"Nutrition Scientists on the Take from Big Food," details the ways that the world’s largest food corporations—aka Big Food—exert their influence on nutrition research and the people who conduct it.

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Would You Buy Meat If You Didn't Know Where It Came from, or How It Was Raised?

A recent move by the World Trade Organization threatens to put more mystery in the meat we eat, while casting doubt on our national sovereignty. The WTO ruled on May 18 that American meat labels violate Canadian and Mexican free trade rights. The labels were created in accordance with U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) laws, and show where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The labels are directed at American consumers, and were implemented through the American political process. But they put Mexican and Canadian livestock producers at an unfair disadvantage, the WTO ruled. So they must go.

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Restaurant Industry's Dirty Secret: Why I'm Mostly Going to Stop Eating Out

In a few weeks I will write my final restaurant review for Weekly Alibi in Albuquerque and head home to Montana. I’ll miss restaurant criticism, but I will also feel some relief to leave it behind. 

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Synthetic Stimulants Are Finding Their Way into 'Natural' Supplements -- How a $33 Billion Industry Cons Its Customers

Americans spend about $33 billion a year on dietary supplements, many of which promise things like weight loss, enhanced cognitive function and increased muscle mass. According to Pieter Cohen, a practicing MD and professor at Harvard University, most of these supplements can be divided into two categories: supplements that work are potentially very hazardous to your health and often illegal or unregulated, and that the supplements that are sold as safe have practically zilch positive effect. There is a disturbing practice among supplement makers to add amphetamine-like stimulants to many supplements. Most of these have never been tested on humans. Those that have been tested have been found dangerous.

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Is Your Memory Shaky? Might Not Be Your Age, But All That Sugar Ruining Your Liver

We know foods like donuts and soda can make you fat, but the effects of sugar on the liver and brain are less well-known. Dietary sugar can fry your liver in much the same way alcohol can. This in turn can hurt your brain, leaving you with dementia-like symptoms decades too soon.

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How Processed Foods Can Be a Disaster for Your Health

Processed foods are suspected of causing a variety of heath issues. Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, for example, are known to cause high blood sugar and obesity. But recent research has uncovered an entirely new mechanism by which many metabolic disorders can be triggered. Certain additives that are commonly used in processed foods are being shown to impact health, at least in mice, by altering the body’s population of bacteria that live in the gut. Collectively referred to the microbiome, the importance of this bacterial community of millions is just beginning to be understood.

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How Toxic Are the Food Colorings in What You Eat?

Nestle announced last week that it plans to remove all artificial colors and flavors from its candy bars. The company said it was doing so in response to consumer preferences, not because there was anything dangerous about the artificial products it was using.

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This Humble Food Is a Nutritional Powerhouse -- and It Changed the Lives of Hippies, Environmentalists, and Gun-Toting Rednecks

Lentils are a humble ingredient that appear in many earthy foods. Not the fancy dishes that tapdance around the table, but simple, nourishing foods like Indian dal or hippy mush, the kind of food that feeds villages. It turns out that lentils come from a plant that has a similarly beneficial impact on the land where it grows, and on the communities that cultivate it.  

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Bone Broth Is Trendy, But You May Be Poisoning Yourself With Heavy Metals If You're Not Careful

For longer than there have been kitchens, people have found ways to boil bones. From rural villages to urban restaurants to grandma’s house, the virtues of bone stock, and its salted cousin, broth, are hardly a secret. But lately, bone broth has boomed into a trendy end in itself. You can pay nearly ten bucks for ginger grassfed beef broth at Brodo in New York. You can drink it at the Jola Cafe in Portland, Oregon. It’s available online, shipped fresh to your doorstep.

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Huge Number of People Believe Drinking Alkalinized Water Prevents Diseases: Are They Right?

We live in the heyday of designer bottled waters. Whether the water is filtered to maximum purity or flavored, sweetened, electrolyte-infused and vitamin-enriched into a "sports drink," the discerning water consumer has never enjoyed more options. A rising star in this field, in terms of sales growth, is alkaline water. With various bottled brands available in stores, alkaline water is also on tap in trendy water bars, and can be made at home with special machines. Alkaline water is intended to make the body less acidic, in hopes that this will help ward off a range of maladies, from annoyances such as heartburn or indigestion to serious issues like osteoporosis, muscle loss and heart disease.

The human body's pH is should be slightly alkaline (it varies from organ to organ), but many life circumstances can push the pH to the acidic side of neutral. Medical conditions, like diabetes or kidney problems, as well as lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise (or lack thereof) can impact the body's pH level. If you're constantly acidic, a condition known as chronic acidosis, this can be a cause or symptom of any number of serious conditions, including those named above.  

Alkaline bottled water can indeed make your pH less acidic, according to research at Montana State University. The water being tested, Akali brand alkaline spring water, raised the blood and urine pH of the subjects, making them less acidic than the control group, which drank Aquafina. The same lab ran another study that determined Akali rehydrated subjects more effectively, after a grueling bike workout, than a control group that drank Aquafina.

Aquafina was the perfect control against which to compare the spring water, according to Dan Heil, who authored both studies. "It's just tap water that goes through a process to strip absolutely all minerals and electrolytes."

Akali brand water comes from a spring in Washington's Cascade Mountains. The company that produces it had hired Heil and his lab to test the impact of Akali on body pH and hydration status. The results were compelling enough to Heil that he published them. Still, he's cautious about the idea of attempting to manage one's pH with water. "It's a very low dose impact on the body. In order for the body to realize meaningful impact, it's got to be a lot of water."

Unless you're exercising regularly, drinking too much water can be a bad thing. If a non-exercising adult living in a moderate climate (as opposed to a hot and humid climate that causes one to sweat a lot) starts drinking six liters of water a day, Heil said, "that's going to have a negative impact on the body. People who hyper-hydrate, who drink too much water, end up flushing valuable minerals and electrolytes out of the body, because the body can't do anything with all of that water."

Too much water can even lead to an acute, life-threatening condition called hyponatremia.

There's no doubt that having a lower than normal pH in one's body—being more acidic, that is—is problematic. And staying on top of one's pH, Heil says, is worth doing, as it can tell you a lot. The best way to mind your pH is to test your urine with pH test strips, which are available at any pharmacy. The reading can vary noticeably throughout the day, depending on what you've recently eaten and done. Heavy exercise will cause a short-term acidification because your blood absorbs carbon dioxide, but that will quickly normalize. Meanwhile, exercise stimulates the appetite, Heil says, and what we eat offers a better opportunity to manage one's pH.

"Food is going to have a far, far greater impact on the body than water consumption," he said.

"A diet high in fruits and vegetables is well known to have an alkaline impact on the body. A diet high in meat is going to have a clear acidic influence."

This isn't to say that meat is necessarily bad, he said, but rather, it creates acidity as a result of how it is digested. "It's the byproducts of digestion that have an acidic or alkaline impact on the body."

As long as the vegetables one consumes outweigh the meat and fat, and processed carbohydrates and sugars are kept to a minimum, the body's pH should take care of itself. Eating along these lines, he adds, also happens to be a "practical, healthy diet."     

Meanwhile, drinking bottled alkaline water can get expensive, and that money could buy a lot of veggies.

"There are far better ways you can use your money to have a positive nutritional influence," he added.     

But if you're determined to medicate with alkaline water, make sure that the water you're drinking is, in fact, alkaline.

"Alkalinity in water can have the tendency to dissipate very quickly after it's alkalized," Heil warned. "So unless it's a stable pH you don't know if you're drinking alkalized water. It may have been alkalized when it came out of the machine, or when it was first bottled, but it may not be alkalized when you drink it."

This brings up an important distinction between two basic types of alkaline water. Some is machine-manufactured, often by passing electric current through water to make it more alkaline. And some alkaline water on the market comes out of the ground that way and is bottled--spring water, that is, like the water used in Heil's study. Alkaline spring water is rich in minerals, which keep the water at a stable pH.

If you really care about your pH level--and you should--then you might want to invest in some pH test strips. In addition to testing yourself, the strips could also be used to check the pH of whatever water you drink, be it from a bottle, a tap, or a stream of glacial melt.  But whatever the numbers say, you should probably eat more vegetables.

Americans Are Finally Waking Up to the Enormous Health Benefits of Bitter Foods

A baby will put almost anything in its mouth, even a sour lemon, without flinching. But bitter foods are quickly ejected with a grimace. We are born with zero tolerance for bitterness, presumably because most toxins are bitter. But many non-toxic, beneficial foods, as well as many types of medicine, are bitter as well. Distinguishing among good and bad sources of bitterness is an important part of growing up.

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The Secret Power of Mayonnaise

Startup food company Hampton Creek was recently sued over the branding and labeling of its egg-free sandwich spread, Just Mayo.

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Why the Most Inspiring Thing You'll Ever Read Could Be a Seed Catalog

Few pieces of reading material can fuel ambition like a seed catalog. They arrive in the mail during the darkest days of the year, offering warm hopes and delicious dreams of lush vegetation and tasty produce, a welcome contrast to the dismal, frigid conditions outside the window. I study seed catalogs with the obsession an auto enthusiast pours into Car & Driver, and the motivation a climber feels when thumbing through Rock & Ice.

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Why Claims That Eating Soy Will Make Men Grow Breasts and Harm Children Are Nonsense

In recent years, there have been some changes on the bean curd scene. For one, there has been a wave of skepticism toward many non-fermented soy products, tofu included. It’s been accused of harboring estrogen-like molecules, which allegedly give breast cancer to women and breast augmentations to men. Soy products have been linked to thyroid problems, and developmental problems in children. They contain phytates, which are considered “anti-nutrients” because they bind iron, zinc, manganese, calcium and other minerals, making them unavailable to the body. 

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