5 Health Benefits of Honey

5 Health Benefits of Honey

1. It contains numerous vitamins and minerals // Although only present in trace amounts, honey contains nutrients that refined sugar lacks such as vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.


2. It’s an antibacterial // Honey behaves as an antiseptic: it contains trace amounts of hydrogen peroxide which cleanses wounds and the sugars kill bacteria cells by osmosis. Also, honey has a low pH, which prevents bacterial growth, while the sugar also supports white blood cells, reducing inflammation and encouraging healthy tissue growth. For this reason, many people also use honey topically, such as in natural face masks.


3. You’ll support the environment // By using honey, you will be supporting the bee population and increasing agriculture productivity. Many plants (oranges, almonds) require insect pollination to reproduce. Honeybees are the number one insect pollinator and without them, our food system could collapse.


4. Local honey can reduce the effect of allergies // Some doctors and scientists believe that consuming local honey can reduce the effects of seasonal allergies. In a similar sense to the way a vaccine works, consuming honey, which contains trace amounts of pollen can encourage immunity to the pollen of the plants.


5. It won’t spoil // Honey’s acidity (low pH) as well as the hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the air) sugar molecules make it so the honey won’t spoil and it can actually be used to preserve food.


Sources: Livestrong, PubMed


Hidden Non-Dairy Milk Additives

Semi-homemade Coconut MilkEating real food means avoiding additives. That includes additives commonly found in “health” products, particularly non-dairy plant-based milks. Most non-dairy milks on the market, including soy milk, hemp milk, almond milk and coconut milk, use food additives to thicken, stabilize, help keep proteins suspended and extend shelf life. To avoid buying non-dairy plant milks with additives try these easy alternatives:


  • MAKE YOUR OWN NUT OR SEED MILK // Sarah Britton of My New Roots has a great little video about how to do this at home, The Kitchn gives great step-by-step instructions and this nut-milk bag makes it all that much easier.
  • TRY OUR EASY SEMI-HOMEMADE COCONUT MILK  // An affordable, quick and healthy semi-homemade alternative.
  • BUY REAL, RAW, LOCAL DAIRY MILK // Check out Real Milk.com to explore why drinking raw, local milk can benefit you, your community and the environment. This website is also a resource for finding raw milk state by state. 





CARRAGEENAN: Carrageenan is a thickener, stabilizer and texturizer derived from seaweed. It is industrially processed using potassium hydroxide and is used in a wide variety of products such as desserts, beer, shampoos, diet sodas and plant milks.


 Joanne K. Tobacman, M.D., an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, has extensively studied the effects of carrageenan on the human body. Dr. Tobacman’s studies have overwhelmingly shown that carrageenan causes an inflammatory response in the body. Chronic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as cancer.


Both Dr. Andrew Weil and Chris Kresser have written about the effects of carrageenan and recommend avoiding his additive.


Cornicopia.org has produced a very useful shopping guide for avoiding products containing carrageenan.


BOTTOM LINE // Out of all thickeners commonly added to non-dairy milks, this seems to be the most harmful to the body. Try to avoid. //




XANTHAN GUM: Xanthan gum is a thickener and stabilizer, which is the product of bacterial fermentation; specifically, it is the polysaccharide secreted by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. It can be derived from common allergens, such as corn, soy or wheat. The process of producing anthem gum was discovered in the 1960s and is rather involved:

(From Wikipedia): The polysaccharide is prepared by inoculating a sterile aqueous solution of carbohydrate(s), a source of nitrogen, dipotassium phosphate, and some trace elements. The medium is well-aerated and stirred, and the polymer is produced extracellularly into the medium….After fermentation that can vary in time from one to four days, the polymer is precipitated from the medium by the addition of isopropyl alcohol, and the precipitate is dried and milled to give a powder that is readily soluble in water or brine.

Xanthan gum seems to be less harmful to the body than carrageenan, but can cause intestinal irritation, including bloating and diarrhea.


BOTTOM LINE // Referencing back to our food philosophy, xanthan gum is not something you could easily produce at home; it is a chemically produced additive made in a lab. Although it seems to be better than carrageenan, avoid if possible. //




GELLAN GUM: Gellan gum is similar to xanthan gum; it is a polysaccharide produced by bacterial fermentation and has been shown to negatively effect the intestinal tract of rats. 


BOTTOM LINE // Avoid if possible. //




LOCUST BEAN GUM (also known as carob bean gum): Locust bean gum is a thickening and gelling agent derived from the seeds of the carob tree. This gum is derived from a whole food and it is obtained without the use of chemicals or an elaborate extracting process.


BOTTOM LINE // Consumed in small doses, locust bean gum seems to be safe. It would still be preferable to consume milk without locust bean gum added. //




GUAR GUM: Unlike xanthan gum, guar gum is made from a whole food: it is the ground endosperm of guar beans. In non-dairy milks it is used to thicken milk and maintain homogeneity and texture. Aside from being a food additive, guar gum has many industrial applications – from the textile industry to the explosives industry. Guar gum is capable of reducing the body’s ability to absorb dietary minerals from the food consumed alongside it. Guar gum is soluble fiber and can therefore have a laxative effect.


BOTTOM LINE // Guar gum is a better option than xanthan gum, but may be irritating for people with intestinal issues. //




GUM ARABIC: Gum arabic is a stabilizer derived from the sap of the acacia tree. Historically cultivated and derived from a whole food, this gum seems to be rather safe.


BOTTOM LINE // Consumed in small doses, gum arabic seems to be safe. It would still be preferable to consume milk without gum arabic added. //




NATURAL FLAVORS:  Natural flavors are created by flavorists in a lab but derived from natural sources. The FDA doesn’t require that food producers to reveal their secret formulas (though all food additives and natural flavors must come from the FDA’s “Generally Regarded as Safe” list). Natural flavors are often added to substitute for more expensive ingredients or to increase shelf stability. They can be made with common allergens, such as soy or corn, as well as animal products. To view the USDA’s Code of Federal Regulations for “natural flavors,” click here. 


BOTTOM LINE //  It would be difficult to make these “natural flavors” at home. Although they are derived from natural sources, they are isolated and re-formulated in a lab environment. Avoid! //




LECITHIN (Soy & Sunflower): Lecithin is a fatty substance occurring in animal and plant tissues, which as as an emulsifier or lubricant. Lecithins are extracted chemically and were first isolated in 1846. They are highly processed and often obtained from genetically modified crops.


BOTTOM LINE // Lecithin is an isolate and, while present in whole foods, does not exist on its own in nature. Although it seems to be safe in small quantities, avoid if possible. //




Health Benefits of Coconut Milk

Grain-Free Pumpkin Granola with Almond MilkMany people shy away from coconut milk because it is very caloric and contains a lot of fat. Diluted coconut milk, however, which we use in our semi-homemade coconut milk, is relatively low calorie and low fat without the additives of other non-dairy milks (check the label!). Head over to our posts hidden additives in non-dairy milk  and easy semi-homemade coconut milk for more information about coconut milk and brands we recommend.


1. It contains medium-chain-triglycerides (MCTs) //

MCTs are easily and quickly burned as fuel by the body (metabolized in the liver) and not stored as fat . The body processes medium-chain fatty acids differently than other saturated fats; they are quickly absorbed and used as energy shortly after being consumed.


2. It is rich in vitamins // 

C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6.


3. It is rich in minerals // 

Iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.


4. It is easy to digest //

MCTs don’t require bile acids for digestion.


5. It is rich in antioxidants // 

Antioxidants  prevent free radical damage.


6. It has antiviral and antibacterial properties //

Coconut milk contains lauric acid, which is converted by the body into monolaurin, a compound that is antiviral and antibacterial. Lauric acid may also reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.


Sources: BBC, San Francisco Gate


Why Grass-Fed Meat is Better For Everyone

Pulled PorkMeat is a challenging topic to tackle when discussing health. Is it good for you? Bad for you? Does it cause heart disease? Are vegetarians protein deficient? Where should it come from? The questions are endless and the answers given to the public are usually confusing. At Our Four Forks, we believe eating meat can be healthful, but its nutrient density is wholly dependent on how the meat was raised. Here are six reasons why grass-fed meat is better for everyone:

1. Animals can move around //
Animals that our ancestors ate (bison, deer, cattle) had a much lower fat content than present day farm animals, largely because they roamed free. Exercise is integral to the health of an animal and prevents them from needing antibiotics or hormones (see number 3).

2. Animals eat food they were meant to eat //
Animals are supposed to eat vegetation. This means grass for cows and grubs, roots, insects and plants for poultry and pigs. Animals were not meant to eat grain, especially not chemically sprayed grain.

3. No antibiotics or hormones used //
Since conventionally raised animals live in close quarters and are force fed, they need antibiotics to prevent infection. Hormones are also used to reach slaughter weight faster. Neither antibiotics or hormones are necessary when an animal is properly raised.

4. Higher in nutrients and lower in saturated fat //
Pastured beef has less saturated fat and more nutrients than conventional beef. Pastured meat is a complete protein source and is high in iron; iron from meat is more usable by the body than any other source. Pastured meat is also high in B vitamins, especially B-12, which is only attainable through meat or fortified foods. Grass-fed or pastured dairy milk is a good source of fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2.

5. Better for the environment //
Pastured animals use a lot less fossil fuel than feedlots. Feedlot animals are fed a diet of dried corn and soy, which are treated with fossil fuel based fertilizers, sprayed with pesticides and then harvested with machines that run on more fossil fuel. Pastured animals fertilize the soil they graze on with their manure, making their environment self-sustaining (for more information, visit the Savory Institute). Feedlots are also concentrated waste areas; built-up excrement is often dumped near lakes and streams, which further pollutes the environment.

6. Better for your community // 
Since it is sometimes difficult to find grass-fed or pastured meat at your local supermarket, you may have to buy from your local farmer. This is not a bad thing; the closer you can get to your food, the better for everyone. Grass-fed or pastured meat from local farmers is usually comparable in price to organic meat you’d buy at your supermarket and buying from your local farmer means you know where your meat is coming from. Visit our Love page for resources on how to find locally raised grass-fed meat.

What is Real Food? The Our Four Forks Food Philosophy

What is real food? The Our Four Forks Food Philosophy

Here at Our Four Forks, we struggle with many of the same questions that plague and confuse the public every day. Mixed messages, conflicting studies, changing trends and popular diets have affected us as much as the next person. Should we eat meat? Should be eat grains? Buy organic? Limit carbohydrates? The questions are endless, but we try to learn more every day, piece by piece.


We both choose to eat differently and have done so for awhile; Ally is decidedly not vegetarian while Isabel is completely vegetarian and mostly vegan. Seemingly, we would disagree about a lot in terms of health and nutrition. But the truth is, there isn’t much of a disconnect in the two different ways we eat. We believe you can be very healthy as a vegetarian or as an omnivore and our basic eating philosophy applies to both.


 Eat real food and eat food that has eaten real food.


What is real food? Real food is food that has been minimally processed and retains many of the nutrients it contained when alive in nature. As a general rule, the less altered by humans, the better it is for you.


Does this mean that we’re against things like yogurt, flours, or nut milks that have been “altered” by humans? No. If you grew almonds in your backyard, you could easily make almond milk. If you owned a cow, you could ferment its milk and make yogurt. If you grew a stevia plant, you could make extract from the leaf. This food is slightly processed, but its nutritional integrity is preserved (and sometimes even enhanced) by these processes.


Processed foods that we’re against are foods that you could not make without the help of scientists and lab equipment. If you grew corn, could you make high fructose corn syrup? Well, maybe, but you’d need a bunch of weird ingredients that we’re not convinced your body knows how to utilize properly. If you did make your own high fructose corn syrup, could you then make Coke? Probably not, unless you got your hands on some caramel color, phosphoric acid, isolated caffeine… you get the point.


So what about food that has eaten real food? For plants, this means they should grow in nutritionally dense soil without pesticides. You eat what your vegetable eats. For animals, this means they should eat foods they would eat in nature and move around in a way they would in nature (without hormones). You eat what your meat eats. In nature, a cow would graze on grass and other forage all day long; constantly moving and eating food its body was designed to process. A cow would not be locked in a concentrated feedlot, fattened with synthetic growth hormones and fed corn and soy (both pesticide sprayed).


As you can imagine, the nutrient density of plants and animals is directly affected by the foods those plants and animals eat. Organic plants and pastured meat are more expensive not just because they take more effort and care to grow and raise, but also because they have more nutrients. While most people only think about what is absent from organic or pastured food (hormones and pesticides), try to also think about what is present: nutrients. The extra cost may not seem as bad.


This entire blog is an exploration. We are learning as we go; changing our habits and opinions as we see fit. We’d love for you to jump into the conversation by commenting below.