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Is it Healthy Junk Food or Junky Health Food?

We just returned from an exciting natural foods show in Anaheim, California. Besides enjoying the warm weather and deep blue skies, we learned about the new trends in the natural foods industry.

Originally, we were going to complete our Positive Synergy Series this week, but we are going to submit that next week so we can give you up-to-date information about what we learned at the show. The Positive Synergy Article will totally surprise you as you begin to see that doing and eating certain activities and foods will be more advantageous than if you only experience one of them at a time. Stay tuned!!

The Natural Foods Expo was an interesting blend of supplements, cooked foods, raw foods, kitchen appliances and personal care products.

We saw the newest ingredients and products that will be marketed through health food stores this year. Many of them are not even available yet. One ingredient that caught our attention was Baobab, an interesting antioxidant ingredient from Africa. We can’t help but wonder though, if it will be another acai, moringa, or noni.

We also saw some interesting booths that demonstrated creativity and craftsmanship. The amount of marketing dollars spent on creating and manning these booths is a small fortune. In talking with the vendors, they agreed that the effort and resources to present their products at this venue was likely more than most small business owners’ annual marketing budgets.

One thing that really stood out to us was:
Several of the vendors proclaimed that their products were “non-GMO” or pending that certification. They were also quick to point out “gluten-free.” But when asked if their products were “Organic” they would either a) quickly divert the conversation saying “it is All-Natural” so as to make you think that the organic distinction wasn’t important, or b) tell us bluntly that the “Organic” distinction was just too expensive for them to obtain.

It seems that vendors are tossing around several “Industry” words or “Buzz” words and it will easily confuse consumers.

For example, do you remember not too many years ago the word “Natural” was consistently used—and it still is being overused today? Can we place trust in any product that says “Natural” anymore?

At the show it seemed that Non-GMO is the up and coming phrase to look for, but all that it means is that the seeds from which it grew were not genetically modified. While that is important, it still does not mean that the product was created with quality ingredients, without pesticides or herbicides, whether it used high quality fertilizer, no mention of the processing of the product, no discussion of whether it has living enzymes. Ultimately, by describing the product as non-GMO, there are many questions about the quality of the product still unanswered.

Organic however, means the produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or ionizing radiation. So when selecting foods it is more important to select Organic than Non-GMO.

Gluten free products are also something to be careful of. There is no discussion about the amount of sugars, salts and fats in those products. Even the quality of the grain substitutes need to be addressed. There are many more organic gluten free foods, which is a great benefit. But watch the label carefully and don’t expect ALL gluten free foods to be quality, healthy grain alternatives.

People today seem to believe that more protein is good protein—even if it is plant based. Several products were touting the extra protein value in them since that appears to be what consumers are demanding. Watch what you purchase, believe us, the industry is watching you.

The convention center can hold many products. If we were to guess, there were likely 10,000 vendors representing multi numbers of products. Of all these vendors and products only a small percentage of products could actually be considered “healthy” even thought most of them will be on your local “health” food store shelves.

It is more important now than ever to read labels. 10-20 years ago, this industry had true health food. There wasn’t the potential for making large money in it then, so the people who created products were truly committed to real, healthy, quality foods with excellent ingredients and processing. Today there are different reasons why people are there. There are “junky” health foods that are highly processed and minimally better than what can be purchased at your local box grocery stores, “moderate” health foods which may not hurt your body but will likely not help it either, and “true” authentic health foods that can be valuable for your body to consume.

There seem to be more chia, flax, and hemp products than there used to be, but there is an abundance of disguised unhealthy products conveniently neglecting to differentiate themselves from truly healthy. Their buzzwords, jargon, and deceptive packaging can easily make you believe that this is the one that will change your life!

We have been in this industry for nearly 25 years. In that time, we have watched as highly regarded supplement and whole food companies as well as numerous medical doctors have sold out to profit focused corporations and within a short time, it became apparent the quality of their products diminished and were no longer as effective and valuable as they once were, no matter how many times you see it advertised on PBS, on the Wholefoods shelves and anywhere their Marketing Firms can place them.

Even for the discerning consumer, it is easy to fall for the lingo and find out their descriptive words were missing a key component that distinguishes this product from all of the rest. If you learn to critically evaluate each of these, you will find out quickly whether these companies have the consumer good in mind, or their shareholders.

While we do understand the value of “transitional foods”, it becomes quickly apparent that there is so much more to why and where the placement of these products are in the store shelves. It is no longer a reality that the greatest number of items on a store shelf means it is the most effective and greatest product. Rather, it means, that the marketing dollars for that product have generated the best placement on the shelves, which is usually at your eye level.

The confusion surrounding the jargon of these “healthy” products has led HD to create a new department whose sole focus is to remove some of the confusion. We are the first to create self-regulation in an industry that has gone beyond the scope of where it once stood for quality and integrity. We will soon release more information about how you can see for yourself what is truly healthy and what is contrived. Stay tuned!

There are new berries and supplements that are making the news. If you haven’t heard of moringa and baobab, you must be missing something! We have found through the years, that although these new hot supplements may introduce new antioxidants, the truth is and has always been, that if you maintain a strong immune system by a primarily raw, plant based diet, discreet supplementation, and consistent exercise as well as stress management, you will likely not feel any true difference if you were to try them. As often as we have been approached and subsequently tried the newest ones, invariably, our reactions nearly always disappointed those wanting us to sell their products. If you maintain a healthy immune system, these new up and coming miracle products will seriously disappoint you and have the potential of being a wasted investment.

There will always be a new wonder-supplement. Instead of falling for their exceptionally creative marketing talk, stay the course, and maintain your weight, your exercise and your immune system using the God-given, truth-filled approach.

Talk about synergy…non-GMO is important, Gluten-free is important, Vegan is important, but alone, each one of them can still have unhealthy ingredients…. The only true value is if you evaluate EVERY component, not just one. After reviewing this food show and most of what it offered, we have seen more than ever the value of RAW. Even if it isn’t organic, a raw food, by its very nature is more healthy than 99.9 % of those products we saw this weekend. No matter their ORAC value, their glucose level, no matter what, RAW FOODS are the best!!


  1. You state “organic” includes “non-GMO.” That sounds like a reasonable definition. It even sounds like a preferable one. But is that the *official* definition, by the United States Department of Agriculture?

    Especially when a corrupt FDA, at the urging of a tragically misguided academic establishment, formally declared GMO Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)?

    I suggest we need both labels, with one just as important as the other.

    Until you can get the USDA to clarify their Organic label.

    Either that or build an Organic certification program of your own.

  2. Leigh Ann March 11, 2015

    Hi!! Great article! As I head off to the Canadian show next month my first comment is that it tends to be a huge amount of vendors working on making junk food healthy!! It really is still junk just slightly better ingredients. I agree raw food in its whole state is best but what do you think of raw supplements, raw protein powder etc. A true raw protein left on a shelf will eventually create pathogens. The Raw terminology is akin to Natural…. Unless it actually is the unprocessed raw product how can it be considered raw? I agree people need to be careful but watch out for the word raw!! If it doesn’t look like broccoli and it is claimed raw food it isn’t raw food. Raw is an unregulated term and we are going to see it popping up everywhere. Not to say products advertised as raw are unhealthy but the term should is used loosely to convince the consumer it is best! Buyer beware!!

    • Christy Okon March 12, 2015

      We completely agree that “raw” is a word that can be just as deceitful as the word “natural”! We also agree that there is no regulation with “living foods” and as you read in our article, we have hinted that we have something coming soon that we want to begin self-regulation in this industry. While this is not exactly an announcement we are prepared to make at this time, we can assure you that your point is well made, we completely concur and….we believe a tool will soon be available in the near future so everyone can learn “Is it really raw?”

  3. Thanks for the latest in nutrition and marketing, Paul and Ann. We trust you guys to keep us informed on what’s happening in the world of health and wellness. God’s food, in its raw and naturally live state is still the best way to health. You have confirmed that and we appreciate it. May God bless you.

  4. Dianne dreer March 11, 2015

    Keep up the good work

  5. patricia March 11, 2015

    Re: food shows and by extension, farmer’s markets : It is incredibly hard to sift through all the deceit in the food industry, I agree! it’s a heavily regulated and controlled, politcally driven thing as much as it’s simple food supply. I think those who say obtaining the organic label IS genuinely expensive, to the point of being prohibitive are likely being truthful and some well asked questions could easily determine whether or not its a sidestep of avoidance or merely an explanation. Where I am, to be able to legally sell your produce as organic, you have to acquire a piece of land that has not had any chemical intervention for a set period of years. I’m pretty sure there are things that the land can’t ever have been used for as well. That immediately makes the land more expensive on its own. You have to jump through hoops to qualify for that label after that. It is very time consuming and costly and many smaller farmers who don’t have deep pockets forgo it. Additionally, if the farmer next door is NOT farming organically, the organic fellow can wind up with some chemicals on his land anyway unless he can find an area where the neighboring farms are doing likewise, or the adjacent land is not being used at all. It’s not a gaurantee. Many farmers do all the things those who can afford the ogranic label do and don’t use pesticides, don’t chemically fertilzie, raise their animals without drugs, etc. So its a good idea to ask about the process and methodology used by given producers, what’s in and what’s not, what their philosophy of farming is, what they feed their animals if you eat meat, eggs or dairy, how long they’ve been farming their land that way. it’s a bit more of a conversation, but it builds a relationship with your farmer and gets past the info blocking effect of labels. An increasing amount of farmers do not want more gov’t regulation and control, as there is already too much control over what we are allowed to eat and not eat and how. See films like Farmageddon, a rather dramatic but accurate protrayal of what farmers are up against, or authors such as Joel Salatin, who wrote Folks, This Aint Normal or other farming related titles for a real eye opener of what American and Canadian farmers go through. This could be as much the reason why some are actually farming organically but aren’t interested in obtaining the label.

  6. Jim Weiland March 16, 2015

    In regards to your comment about moringa and not being necessary if you are getting raw foods and proper exercise…would you say that this would also be true of the Barley Green supplement?

  7. Your article is very helpful. I do appreciate all the work you do in researching. May GOD bless you!

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