Posts Tagged ‘US

How to Buy a Great Olive Oil

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When it comes to olive oil, there are many choices: virgin, extra-virgin, light, extra-light, Italian, Imported, etc… but what does it all mean? Is “extra-virgin” olive oil somehow morally superior to plain ‘ole “virgin” olive oil?  And what makes an olive oil “light” or “extra-light?” In order to get some clarity, we’ve gone to the olive oil guru, Tom Mueller. His book, Extra Virginity, is a recently published, and highly informative guide to the world of olive oil. Outlined below are some of the book’s most important points that can help you choose the best olive oil for the best price.

1. Virginity – The “virginity” of an olive oil refers to a few things – primarily how the oil was extracted from the olives. *Virgin and extra-virgin olive oil must have only been extracted by mechanical means (i.e. crushing and pressing) at a low temperature in order to earn one of these titles. Also necessary: the oil be the freshest, most pure, have the lowest acidity, and the highest amount of health benefits (antioxidants) to be called virgin or extra-virgin.

*Beware! These terms are loosely regulated (especially in the US), and many loop-holes exist that manufacturers will use in order to put an extra-virgin label on undeserving olive oil product. Mueller asserts that approximately 50 percent of US-sold extra-virgin-labeled olive oils are “adulterated” – meaning they’re lower quality oils that’ve been either mixed with a small amount of true extra-virgin oil, deodorized, and/or treated in some way to make them resemble extra-virgin olive oil.

2. Italian – If an olive oil is labelled “Italian,” it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a great olive oil. While it’s true that Italy has some amazing olive oils, it’s not the only country capable of producing such excellence. Additionally, Mueller points out in an interview with NPR that many oils labelled “Italian” have “been packed in Italy or have been transited through Italy just long enough to get the Italian flag on them,” so they may not even be true Italian olive oils.

3. Imported – just means that the oil came from another country (could be Canada, for example) and doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the oil. Imported oils could be of very high quality, but local oils are equally as likely to be great, and may even be more fresh given that they have a shorter distance (less time) to travel.

4. Light and extra-light – In his own words, Mueller expresses “Extra light is just as caloric as any other oil — 120 calories per tablespoon, but the average person looking at it might say, ‘Oh, well, I’ve heard olive oil is a fat, so I will try extra light olive oil.’ …it’s highly, highly refined. It has almost no flavor and no color. And it is, in fact, extra-light in the technical sense of being clear.”


The secret to finding a great olive oil lies in finding a producer who takes the notion of “extra-virginity” extra seriously. Cold-pressed, very fresh oil will have the best flavor, aroma, and health benefits. To get the best extra-virgin olive oil for the lowest price (in the US), Mueller recommends trying Corto Olive brand oils or California Olive Ranch.

For Central Texans, check out our very own Texas Hill Country Olive Co. for high-quality extra-virgin (and organic!) local olive oil.

For everyone, we highly recommend Mueller’s Extra Virginity for additional perspective. Buy it in hard copy or digital form here.

(image: Seamus O’Connor)

World’s Population Reaches 7 Billion

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It’s official. Well, almost – while the United Nations demographers report that the world’s population has reached 7 billion today, the U.S. Census Bureau says we’re not quite there. According to their projections it’s going to take about 4 more months. These two predictions might seem far apart, but they actually fall within a 1% margin of error. With the numbers being so large, a 1% margin of error means that the 7 billion mark could be reached anytime 6 months before 31 October 2011, or anytime 6 months after. “No one can know the exact number of people on the globe,” says Gerhard Heilig, who is chief of the population estimates and projections section of the United Nations Population Division.

The only thing more daunting than such a task as counting how many humans are on the Earth is coming up with a way to deal with all the waste they produce. Whether 7 billion happens today, tomorrow, or 6 months from now, one thing is for sure: It is high time to join the initiative to reduce waste. What are you doing to keep junk out of the dump? Need ideas? We’ve got tons for you, just check out the rest of our blogs! Got ideas? Tell us about them!

(image: Cool Infographics)

Written by jmalsky

November 15, 2011 at 11:52 am

The Messy HFCS Debate: Do We Really Know?

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There’s been back and forth bantering between nutritionists/medical professionals and agricultural scientists about whether high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is legitimately harmful to humans – or if it’s only harmful when consumed in abundance, or if it’s not harmful at all. As many of you have probably seen on grocery aisles, the debate has prompted some companies to ditch HFCS for pure cane sugar in their products, or at least offer a pure cane sugar alternative. The corn industry fears it will continue to lose money if the shift away from HFCS continues, and threw dollars into a campaign (with the humorous title “Sweet Surprise”) targeting, directly and explicitly, “false” health claims about HFCS (i.e., HFCS is totally fine for you and enhances flavor). This only fueled the fire.

As with most issues that involve huge legal budgets and marketing dollars, it’s hard to find a clear-cut answer – especially when at least one side (the corn industry) is spinning the truth like a top. For example, HFCS is a mixture of fructose and glucose, with a higher amount of fructose – commonly (and approximately) 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose (the remaining 3 percent consists of numerous ingredients irrelevant to this discussion). Cane sugar is really sucrose, a 50-50 mixture of fructose and glucose. Sweet Surprise claims on their home page that high fructose corn syrup “is not high in fructose as its name would suggest. High fructose corn syrup is composed of the same two simple sugars (fructose and glucose) as table sugar, honey, and maple syrup.” Of course it uses the same two sugars – it’s not the ingredients that pose a health risk, it’s the ratio of ingredients. As Off the Grid writer Jerry Greenfield writes, “every cell in your body utilizes glucose, so it is burned up pretty quickly. Fructose, on the other hand, is turned into free fatty acids and triglycerides which get stored as fat. When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. When you eat 120 calories of fructose, a whopping 40 calories are stored as fat.”

The body, therefore, treats fructose and glucose very differently – and even a few percentage points more of fructose and change the way the body responds to the sweetener, with the primary risk being increased fat retention. Princeton psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who spent his career studying the neuroscience of apetite, weight, and sugar addiction, confirmed this when he concluded in March 2010: “some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the condition of our tests. When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”

Many health associations in the US have made claims about HFCS in the last five years. They’re been all over the map, and some have been retracted shortly after they were announced. The truth is, this issue’s still in the gray, and in general dealt with via the following lines of logic:

1. The “if there’s any doubt, forget it” approach. The simple fact that there are studies being done to determine the safety and healthiness of HFCS is reason enough to avoid it.

2. The “there’s too many differing sides, so forget it” approach. How can we know the truth amidst so many claims? Don’t change your behavior until you have a legitimate reason to.

3. The “we should all be growing our own food anyway” approach. Even though HFCS is derived from corn, it’s not a purely natural ingredient. If it went through chemical processing, don’t eat it.

We don’t really make outright claims on many things. Sometimes, the (2) approach above is warranted – not claiming something until there’s sufficient evidence. But on this issue, we’ve taken approach (3): avoid chemically-processed ingredients when possible.

(image via: Kansas Grains)

Written by Brian Nunnery

September 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Somethin’s Gotta Give (Guest Post)

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Lauren Welker:

Geologist, gardener, epicurean, homesteader, scholar, problem solver


It’s a relatively accepted fact that we, as a country, are in trouble. Life as we know it is unsustainable. Just look at the news: Gulf Oil Spill Waste Ushers In Cancer! Oil at $120 Risk Economic Double Dip! U.S. Corn-Crop Delays Signal Tightest World Supply Since 1974! What the…we don’t have any fish?!

We’ve made some progress, but we’ve yet to make the drastic changes necessary to sustain a decent quality of life for future generations. I was convinced we were wholly screwed – that is, until I happened upon the in.gredients website. I was surprised to discover a for-profit business out to prove they can make organic more affordable, make local food more accessible, and make waste reduction more practical. They’re taking a logical approach in attempting to solve problems – such as oil dependence, obesity, the economy, education, malnutrition, sustainability. It’s obviously not a cure-all. But if successful, in.gredients could a model for other businesses, and who knows? Maybe it will be the store that changes the whole game, and that’s exciting. We –  the consumer – are excited.

Just what are we excited about?

Removing petroleum from the food industry: From fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to importing and packaging, our entire food industry is heavily dependent on a finite resource – and that’s, quite frankly, just plain stupid. We’re setting ourselves up for inevitable disaster. As it stands, the industry is unsustainable. in.gredients minimizes transportation by sourcing groceries locally, attempts to procure organic when possible, stocks seasonally, and removes unnecessary packaging – this business will survive and it won’t have to pass the cost of oil prices onto the consumer when gas reaches $10 per gallon.

Minimizing waste: A study done by the US Health Department determined that Americans throw away 25% of the food they buy. The New York Times published this appropriately scary visual, that includes the food waste from grocers. in.gredients minimizes consumer waste, by allowing the customer to buy only what they need and utilizing reusable containers,  and plans to minimize the store’s waste by not over-stocking, and composting any spoiled food on-site.

Stimulating the local economy: The economy stinks right now, and a lot of folks are unemployed. The best way to stimulate job growth is at the local level, and in.gredients will be almost, if not entirely, local. A part of the of wealth generated will be reinvested in the Austin economy, helping our local businesses, farms, and  residents.

Community: in.gredients will be actively involved in the community. Not only will the store be a place where you can buy your necessities, but they also plan on offering classes to educate the community on sustainable living (gardening, cooking, etc), social events, and consistent  charitable giving. The community supports the store, and in return, the store supports the community – it’s only a fair exchange.

After having the “green” movement be misused, abused, and degraded into a marketing ploy, it’s refreshing – and a little thrilling – to watch in.gredients take on this endeavor.


Food Economy: More = Worse

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The US has never had so much food. Since mass food production began after World War II, famine has become an intangible concept we read about in history books. We’re loaded with calories that are pennies on the dollar. And this superlative abundance is going to backfire.

Truth is, more = worse in this context. Reason 1: Low-cost food sells most. And in order to keep foods at low (or lower) cost, food supply has to rise faster than food demand. This has obviously been true for the last 50 years: the demand for food has continually dropped as supply has increased exponentially. That trend has to continue for food to remain cheap or cheaper – i.e. production has to consume more of our rapidly-depleting resources to keep food in an affordable abundance. More = a greater collapse in the future.

Reason 2: Agrochemicals. That’s swank for chemically-based food preservatives. Mass-produced food stocks shelves quicker than it can be consumed. It needs a longer shelf-life than fresh food. Agrochemicals (let’s just say preservatives) were implemented (via heavy subsidies from the government that still keep candy, soda, and other less-nutritious foods cheap) to boost the longevity of food before extensive research was done on their health consequences. While not all preservatives pose a significant threat to health, they generally decrease the primary nutrients of food. More = less nutrition.

Reason 3: Disease. If you saw Food Inc., you can picture what the mass production of meat looks like: crowded feed lots, animals covered in feces, etc. The fact is, we’re growing animals more quickly by altering their anatomies, diets, and habitats – decreasing the nutritional they bring to our table while increasing the risk of food-born illnesses. Popular food author Michael Pollan does a great job of explaining the science behind this in The Vegetable Industrial Complex. Basically, more = less nutrition, and more = more risk.

This volume imperative has perverted the entire Western food landscape. The way we shop for food now mirrors the way we shop for bargains. Healthy, natural food is double or triple the cost of what’s bad for our bodies. Obesity rates have quadrupled since 1970, especially among children under 10. And some of the most basic assumptions about our global food system (food safety, future supply) are now in question.

Something’s got to change. As long as the money’s in the right hands, though – and as long as the money of mega-companies producing unhealthy food is controlling the shelves of our supermarkets – significant change is left to grass-roots businesses that refuse to enter the system.

That’s what we’re doing at in.gredients. Truth be told, you won’t find some of the conveniences you enjoy at the supermarket in our store for reasons explained above. We’re not competing with supermarkets. Our brand new business model will exist in opposition to what’s normal in the grocery business because what’s normal isn’t healthy for our customers. We care about the future health of our community and local food economy. So while we have to make a profit to succeed as a business, we’re showing the industry that health has got to matter more than profit if we’re going to turn the poor food health train around.

If you care about any of this, please visit us once we’re open. We’d love to meet you and learn about your food interests!

Written by Brian Nunnery

January 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

First of Our Kind


Come Enjoy Fall in our Beautiful Beer Garden

 Real food

 Local, Community

 Reduce, Reuse, then Recycle

No matter the case, real, unprocessed food is better for you than food that’s been chemically modified. At our store, you won’t need to be convinced of what you’re buying. You’ll be buying real ingredients.  Learn more in.gredients is a collaborative effort between business, community, and consumers with the goal of eliminating food-related waste while supporting local businesses and farmers.  Learn more There’s no waste in nature. Waste is a human invention. As good stewards of our environment, our top priority is to reduce the amount of waste we produce and reuse what we have.  Learn More

Written by Christian Lane

November 8, 2010 at 4:06 pm

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