by Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

June is Dairy Month. All cow’s milk, like human milk, inherently contains growth hormones. Among the most publicized is bovine growth hormone (BGH), or bovine somatotropin (BST) – a hormone that cows naturally produce. The synthetic form, rBGH or rBST, is given to cows to extend the lactation period by increasing levels of another hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), ultimately increasing milk production with less feed, less animal waste and less methane production.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about these hormones, as well as the use of antibiotics. While more research is warranted, here’s where we are thus far regarding some of the more common concerns:

  1. Does drinking milk that contains these hormones increase a person’s individual level of hormones? Testing has found no significant difference between the levels of growth hormone between milk of rBGH-treated cows and non-rBGH-treated cows. Additionally, the human stomach naturally breaks down protein hormones, rendering them inactive. Furthermore, bovine growth hormones are just that – bovine, meaning they are not recognized by human protein receptors.
  2. Can consumption of milk from rBGH-treated cows that may have increased levels of IGF-1 increase risk of certain cancers in humans, particularly prostate and breast? While early studies suggested such, the most recent research does not confirm these initial associations, or demonstrates much weaker associations. What we know now seems to suggest that there is no cause and effect chain linking these two hormones to increased risk of cancer or other disease in drinking milk with rBGH. The exact relationship requires further study.

Still, milk from rBGH-treated cows was found to have slightly higher IGF-1 concentrations than untreated milk. Though the human digestive system would likely break down and deactivate any IGF-1 in our milk, it is yet unclear as to whether or not, and if yes, to what extent, the hormone may be absorbed. Researchers compared blood draws of adults who drank milk (3 glasses/day) vs. those who drink little to no milk, finding that the former had about 10% higher levels of IGF-1. However, this exact same finding was also reported in adults who drank only soy milk (no cow’s milk), suggesting the IGF-1 increase may actually be the result of a different nutrient or entirely other factor unrelated to rBGH.

  1. Treating cows with rBGH can result in mastitis, which can lead to antibiotic use that promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While antibiotics are used to treat mastitis and other infections in cows, the farmers have a financial incentive to avoid antibiotic use unless absolutely necessary. Among other reasons, sick cows are generally separated from the herd for special care, increasing labor- and housing-related cost burdens. An even greater deterrent is the FDA requirement that during and for 96 hours following antibiotic treatment, a treated cow’s milk must be discarded, i.e., wasted without profit. Furthermore, incoming milk tanker trucks are mandatorily tested at dairy processing plants upon arrival. If a tanker’s load – often comprised of milk from more than one farm – is found to contain any level of antibiotics, the offending milk can be traced back to the specific farm. That farm is then on the hook for the disposal and shipping costs of both its own wasted milk plus that from any other farms, and repeat violations jeopardize their ability to sell milk at all. Thus, treatment without antibiotics is highly preferred.

Despite best efforts, it is possible that milk containing antibiotics can make it into our refrigerators, but as yet the extent to which these are, or are not, transmitted to humans is unclear. In terms of cancer and other diseases, evidence thus far suggests that there is no increased risk associated with drinking pasteurized milk from cows treated with antibiotics.

Bottom Line

Stay tuned. More research is warranted, and underway. As of this time the American Cancer Society has “no formal position regarding rBGH,” and goes on to state that “it is not clear that drinking milk, produced with or without rBGH treatment, increases blood IGF-1 levels into a range that might be of concern regarding cancer risk or other health effects.”

For those who are truly concerned, there is also no significant human health risk in drinking milk without hormones or antibiotics. The only downfalls are higher price, and the possibility of purchasing milk that has become tainted (taste sour or spoiled) as the result of untreated infection.

Routinely used antibiotics for cows are ampicillin and erythromycin. And for anyone who is extremely sensitive or allergic to ampicillin, erythromycin, or similar antibiotics, avoidance of treated milk is likely wise to avoid any potential problems.

What are your thoughts on dairy milk hormones and antibiotics? 



  1. Food & Nutrition Magazine, In the Matter of Milk
  2. Ingles Supermarkets, What is rBGH?


  1. American Cancer Society, Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone
  2. Today’s Dietitian, Organic Milk and Meat—Are They Healthier than Their Conventional Counterparts?
  3. US Food and Drug Administration, Report on the Food and Drug Administration’s review of thesafety of recombinant bovine somatotropin

by Elizabeth May, RDN, LDN

Carrageenan has been in our food supply for decades now and is one of the most hotly debated food additives, but why?

What is it?

Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed, mostly imported from Indonesia. The red seaweed is dried and processed into a fine powder where either an acid (“degraded” carrageenan, not used for food) or an alkaline substance (“food grade” carrageenan).


What does it do?

Carrageenan acts as a thickener, emulsifier, and preservative. When carrageenan is removed from a product, manufacturers normally replace it with a mixture of gums such as guar gum and xanthan gum.


Where can I find it? According to the Cornucopia Institute, carrageenan is found in:

Chocolate milk

Ice cream

Sour cream

Cottage cheese

“Squeezable” yogurt


Almond milk

Hemp milk

Coconut milk

Soy desserts

Soy pudding

Sliced turkey

Prepared chicken

Nutritional drinks

Canned soup


Microwaveable dinners

Frozen pizza


What’s all the hype surrounding carrageenan?

Carrageenan is considering safe by the FDA , WHO, and European Commission. However, many organizations and individuals including Food Babe, Cornucopia Institute, National Organic Standard Board (appeals to USDA), and many other professionals, point to studies that have linked this food additive to inflammation, digestive disease risk, and cancer. In 1970, 5,000 tons of red seaweed were harvested for carrageenan production. Today, more than 200,000 tons are harvested for the global use of carrageenan. Some blame this increase in carrageenan use to the subsequent rise of digestive issues and IBD in children.


What does the research say?

Research regarding carrageenan is mixed.

According to Jessica Levings, MA, RDN, writing for the Food and Nutrition Magazine, “Recent research findings published in the journal Food and Toxicology and funded by the industry-backed International Food Additives Council indicate that carrageenan does not cross the intestinal epithelium — a barrier that keeps out the bad stuff and lets in good stuff — and does not cause intestinal inflammation. The findings may seem biased to some, since the study was funded by the food industry — this alone, however shouldn’t indicate bias. The food industry has a vested interest in only using ingredients that are safe for its consumers”.

However, just this year, a review from the Frontiers in Pediatrics, concludes that “animal studies consistently report that carrageenan and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) induce histopathological features that are typical of IBD while altering the microbiome, disrupting the intestinal epithelial barrier, inhibiting proteins that provide protection against microorganisms, and stimulating the elaboration of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Similar trials directly assessing the influence of carrageenan and CMC in humans are of course unethical to conduct, but recent studies of human epithelial cells and the human microbiome support the findings from animal studies. ” The review did state that carrageenan and CMC are unlikely to be the only environmental trigger to IBD.



There is no known safety level of carrageenan so it is best to consume in moderation, if at all. More research is needed. We recommend to read ingredient lists and buy whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish, as much as possible.

What are your thoughts on carrageenan? Do you think it should continue to be a GRAS food additive?


Research Studies:

Image by Susan Albers

Have you been mindful lately?

Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is the concept of becoming more in tune with our bodies and being more present in the moment with our food. When was the last time you truly enjoyed your meal? Truly tasted, savored and respected all of the flavors that were present. Do you know where your food came from? How it was prepared? These are all questions you might want to ask yourself when trying to be more mindful with your eating.

Recognize your hunger signals. Try to distinguish the difference between being satisfied, instead of stuffed or full. As an experiment, rate your hunger level on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being completely full and not hungry and 5 being absolutely famished. What level were you when you began the meal? What level were you after?

Enjoy the experience. Grab a small square of chocolate. Turn off all distractions (computers, devices, phone, etc). Place the chocolate in your mouth and let it melt for 15 seconds without chewing it. What sensations are you experiencing? How does it smell? Taste? Think of as many descriptions as you can and write them down.

Apply some of these tactics to your next meal. Try eating lunch away from your desk and without any distractions. Leave your phone behind and savor each bite. Be present in the moment. Recognize when you are satisfied and stop eating.


Further reading:

Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food by Susan Albers

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole M.S. R.D

Have you jumped on the Millet band wagon yet? Move over quinoa there is a new grain making the rounds! Though, it is not new, millet is gaining popularity again. It must be due to the protein and fiber content, as it contain almost 10% of your fiber needs and 6 grams of protein per cup of cooked millet.

You may have previously seen millet in your bird seed, but it is not only for birds. Add this grain to your diet as a good source of minerals such as copper, phosphorus, manganese, as well as magnesium which is particularly important for our heart health, bone health and even blood sugar management.

A favorite recipe of ours features millet in a Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf.

Enjoy recipes like this, as well as other healthy whole grains on our Whole Grains Pinterest Board.

Most of us are blessed with a bounty of delicious foods and drinks – during the holidays and throughout the year. We may even have more than we can handle between gifts and leftovers! Many others around the country aren’t as fortunate.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 6 Americans struggles with food insecurity, meaning that “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Food insecurity can affect those who are ill, injured, out of a job, or just down on hard times. These affected might be senior citizens, college kids, or children. They may be members of your church, coworkers, neighbors, or even close friends or family. It can happen to anyone.

If you want to help those in need, consider donating food and other needed goods, money, or your time as a volunteer. Here are a few resources to get you started:

  • Visit Feeding America and – enter your location to find nearby food banks, pantries, and shelters.
  • Check with your local churches, hospitals, community centers, schools and universities to see if there are opportunities for you and your family to help those struggling with food insecurity.
  • Philabundance is a great organization helping those in need around the Philadelphia area – donate goods or your time at various locations and events, or donate money on the website.
  • MANNA is another Philadelphia-based charitable organization, the goal of which to provide meals to those in need, specifically battling serious diseases.

Share the love this holiday season – and throughout the year!

Unsurprisingly, pumpkins reign in autumn, but there is a bounty of other produce at their best in these cooler months. Today’s post is all about offering the respect these colorful, delicious, and nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables deserve.

Here are 8 of our favorites:

  • Apples eaten with the skin are low-calorie, high-fiber fruits that promote digestive health and satiety (those feelings of fullness after eating), and may help lower cholesterol and risk of type 2 diabetes. The antioxidant flavonoids found in apples have been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers and heart disease. There are approximately 2,500 types in North American alone, and each is worth sampling!
  • Beets are root vegetables rich in cancer-fighting, inflammation-lowering compounds called betalains – the pigments responsible for their vibrant hue. Beets are also a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, and antioxidant vitamin C. For the ladies planning for pregnancy or who are expecting, beets contain high amounts of folate, which is important for prevention of birth defects and lower birth weights. 
  • Brussels sprouts are low-calorie (28 in 1/2 cup cooked), and contain less than 10 grams of carbohydrate per serving, yet deliver roughly 80% of your daily vitamin C plus more than 100% of your vitamin K. Like other cruciferous veg (e.g., cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, dark leafy greens), Brussels sprouts provide a variety of phytochemicals and compounds linked to decreased risk of infection, inflammation, and certain cancers.
  • Cranberries are an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C, and a 1/2-cup serving is only 23 calories but offers nearly 20% of your daily fiber needs. Vitamins E and K, manganese, and potassium are also present, and studies show that compounds called proanthocyanidins, found in rich supply in cranberries, promote dental and urinary tract health, and may lower cholesterol and reduce risk of atherosclerosis – the dangerous buildup of plaque in your arteries that can obstruct blood flow and lead to heart attack or stroke.
  • Pears are an excellent source of dietary fiber (keep that skin on!) that promotes decreased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and can help lower cholesterol levels. Another fiber benefit is increased satiety that can aid in weight loss and weight maintenance efforts. Pears also contain carotenoids that benefit your eyes, antioxidant flavonoids, and potentially anti-cancer phytonutrients called cinnamic acids.
  • Pomegranates, beautiful, tart jewels of the fruit world, are a good source of vitamins C and K, and may be richer in antioxidants than red wine, green tea, and most other varieties of fruit. Per 1/2-cup serving of pomegranate arils you take in only about 70 calories, a small amount of folate, potassium, and copper, as well as more than 3 grams of fiber. Recent research links small amounts of pomegranate juice to increased production of nitric oxide in the body, which aids in proper circulation, and may speed the growth and recovery time of exercised muscles.


Photo credit: Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

  • Sweet potatoes may just be nature’s best food source of beta-carotene – the red-orange pigment that on its own helps fight free radicals, and then is converted by our bodies into vitamin A that promotes immune and bone health. In addition, one 1/2 cup of cooked sweet potato with the skin on provides roughly 15% of your daily fiber, nearly 30% that of the trace mineral manganese, more than one-third of your vitamin C, and a small amount of several B vitamins.
  • Winter squashes, such as butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti and, yes, pumpkins, are, like sweet potatoes, rich in beta-carotene and antioxidant vitamin C to promote good vision and healthy skin. Squashes in general are also good sources of fiber and potassium, several of the B vitamins, and magnesium – a trace mineral many Americans do not regularly consume enough of. Stretch your dollar by saving and toasting the nutritious seeds!

Tell us: Which autumn fruits or veg are your favorites? How do you prepare them healthfully?

As of today, it is officially Autumn. That truly only means one thing: It is officially OK to eat pumpkin! Time to enjoy your pumpkin spiced everything. We have discussed the power of pumpkin before and promoted it’s health benefits of fiber, vitamin A and potassium to name a few. But beware of foods that might be “pumpkin flavored” and not actually contain any nutritious pumpkin! Most products (such as your latte) contain pumpkin spice flavoring and usually a lot of added sugar. Our best suggestion is always to make it at home if possible. This way you can control the ingredients (and sugar).

Fortunately, you can buy pumpkin pie spice in your grocery store’s baking and spice section, or you can make your own with spices you might already have. The recipe is simple, according to Betty Crocker: “3 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice and 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves.” Just mix this together and keep it in an airtight jar or container for all of your pumpkin spiced needs. Try sprinkling some in your coffee grounds before you brew your morning cup or throw a dash on your oatmeal for an extra kick with no added calories, but tons of antioxidants.

Try going to the supermarket or seeing a food ad and not see the promotion of protein. It seems like protein has taken over! There is even protein water being marketed now! I think we might have hit peak protein.

So what is the deal with protein anyway? Sure, protein is essential to our bodies. We only need 0.8g of protein for each kilogram of body weight, or about 0.36g of protein per pound, according to the Dietary Reference Intake, which is the amount that a normal person should have for basic health. People who are active do require more protein to help with muscle recovery, but it is not as much protein as you think. Athletes might only require 1.2-1.8g per kg or 0.54-0.81 g/lb body weight. This means that an average 150lb adult only needs about 55g of protein to reach the DRI. If they are an athlete, they would need from 82-122g per day, depending on their needs and goals.

Major sources of protein include meats, animal products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as eggs, beans, nuts and seeds. These aren’t the only foods that contain protein. Even fruits, vegetables and grains contain some protein. In fact, pasta contains about 7g of protein per serving.
To put things in perspective, an 8oz glass of milk has about 8g of protein, 1oz of almonds have 6g of protein and a 3oz portion of chicken (about the size of the palm of your hand) has about 30g of protein. As you can see, most Americans are probably meeting their protein needs.

The big hype about protein comes from studies which show that protein can increase satiety and help keep you fuller for longer, which in turn could lead to weight loss. This is mostly true, but seems to only apply to solid protein sources vs liquid sources (we’re looking at you, protein2o protein water).

So what are we supposed to do? First off, if you are trying to lose weight, don’t necessarily add protein to your diet, but you can shift some things around. You may want to plan accordingly though and space protein sources throughout the day to have at your meals and snacks, in order to keep you satisfied. Remember, for weight loss total calories are still most important. So, if you feel that you respond better to a higher protein diet, then be sure to adjust your carbohydrate intake accordingly and still aim for an appropriate calorie range. If you are an athlete and trying to enhance performance and increase muscle mass, then you may want to reflect on how much protein you are taking in, but still be sure to have enough carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as healthy fat choices from fish, nuts and seeds.




Not only is Summer a great time for fresh fruits and vegetables, but also for herbs. Fresh herbs are a great calorie-free way to flavor up your food. They are also loaded with potentially disease-fighting antioxidants! One small downside to growing your fresh herbs is figuring out what to do with them when they start thriving. An is easy trick is to use your microwave. Yes, you can microwave your fresh herbs and in minutes you will have some home made dried herbs to use at a later time! According to J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats, it involves a few easy steps:


  • Step 1: Clean your fresh herbs, remove from stem and pat dry.
  • Step 2: Place 2 paper towels down on a microwave safe plate, place herbs on paper towel and place another paper towel on top.
  • Step 3: Microwave on high for 1 minute. Check herbs to see if they are dry, if not, use 20 second intervals of heating until they are dry.
  • Step 4: Store dried herbs in an air tight container as is, or grind into a powder and store. They should be good to use for several months.







More in-depth information can be found from J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats.


Happy Summer Everyone! This is a great time of year to fire up the grill and do some outdoor cooking. It’s also a great opportunity to try grilling some vegetables and even fruits! There is plenty of new produce becoming available of the new few months. According to, these are produce items that are available seasonally this summer.

Anaheim Chile


Armenian Cucumber

Asian Pear

Barbados Cherries


Bell Peppers

Black Crowberries

Black Currants





Butter Lettuce


Casaba Melon

Champagne Grapes

Chayote Squash


Cherries, Sour

Chinese Long Beans


Crenshaw Melon

Crookneck Squash






French Beans


Galia Melon


Grape Tomatoes



Green Beans

Green Soybeans (Edamame)

Hearts of Palm

Honeydew Melons


Jalapeno Peppers

Key Limes

Lima Beans






Manoa Lettuce





Ong Choy Spinach

Passion Fruit



Persian Melon




Rose Apples





Sugar Apple

Sugar Snap Peas

Summer Squash




Winged Beans

Yukon Gold Potatoes