Featured Stories

Posted on 10th Apr, 2013by Joon Yun

Is Stress Edible?

Is Stress Edible?

The connection between food and stress may be stronger than you think.

The notion that food can affect our health has been around since antiquity, but fears about food have increased dramatically in recent times. The word “diet” means the sum of food eaten, but today that word is associated with not eating. Pejorative phrases like “junk food” entered our vocabulary in the 1970s. Since then, a new culprit—the latest food that we should blame and avoid—is identified every year. Many of the foods that have long been part of the human diet have suddenly become implicated in disease.

What’s going on?

The diseases most commonly attributed to food—heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression, inflammation and obesity start the list—are without exception stress-related diseases. “Stress eating” is commonly understood to mean “eating during times of emotional stress.” But what if the food we eat contains a chemical echo of the stressful experience it recently suffered? In that case, we might be putting stress on a plate and calling it lunch.

Food writers and activists such as Michael Pollan, Alice Waters and others have drawn attention to the many harmful aspects of modern food production. Industrial cultivation and distribution put extreme stress on plants and animals that we eat. It seems that the stresses placed on food ingredients are coming back to us full circle in a perverse rendition of “you are what you eat.”

Take cholesterol, for example. Eating foods high in cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and other stress-mediated diseases. Stress increases cholesterol levels in both humans and industrially raised animals. When we consume a stressed animal’s high cholesterol, our cholesterol levels go up, and we may develop stress-related diseases, as if we had been the ones stressed in the first place.

Now examine salt. A high-salt diet increases the risk of hypertension and other stress-related diseases. Environmental stress causes both humans and food-source animals to retain salt. When we consume animal products that are high in salt, our salt levels go up and we may develop stress-related diseases, as if we had been the ones stressed in the first place.

Next, think about sugar. Too much sugar can increase the risk of diabetes and other stress-related diseases. We also know that stress tends to elevate blood sugar levels in the human body, which, again, contributes to diabetes. Stress also makes fruits sweeter through the plant’s natural stress hormone, ethylene. Ethylene helps fruit ripen, but ethylene is also triggered when the fruit is plucked, bruised during transport, or cut during processing. Furthermore, ethylene is often sprayed onto produce by grocers in order to ripen immature produce and to make it look more luscious. The net effect is that we put stress on fruits, and in turn their sugar levels go up. When we consume those sugars, our own sugar levels go up and we may develop stress-related diseases, as if we had been the ones stressed in the first place.

Consider omega-6 fatty acids. They increase the risk of obesity and other stress-related diseases. (By contrast, omega-3 fatty acids found in products such as extra-virgin olive oil and wild salmon generally decrease the risk of stress-related diseases.) When stressed plants release ethylene, the process also drives up their levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Heavily processed plants, such as refined corn, have higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids as a result. Animals don’t make omega-6 fatty acids and only acquire them through their diet. But when farmed animals and farmed fish are fed refined corn, which is high in omega-6 fatty acids, the animals’ own omega-6 fatty acid levels go up. The net effect is that when we put stress on corn, the biochemical markers of that stress (omega-6 fatty acids) flow through the industrial food chain and end up our plate. Eating such foods contributes to stress-related diseases, as if we had been the ones stressed in the first place.

The use of a biochemical from one species as a hormone by another species is called “xenohormesis.” The ability to detect ecosystem stress through biochemical messengers in the food chain was a favored trait during evolution. If our prehistoric ancestors were eating foods that were high in sugar and fat, it was probably a sign that winter—a season with high stress—was coming. Storing reserves of fat for winter months was important for survival. Evolution favored animal species that were able to respond to the increasing availability of fat and sugar in their diet by converting calories to fat.

Thanks to the modern industrial food complex, however, excessively salty, sweet and fatty foods are available year-round today, and people eat such “stressed foods” all year long. As a result, the typical human body now looks like it is fattening up for an imaginary year-long, stressful winter—an earlier tool for survival has become a Darwinian maladaptation.

While the potential health risks of salt, cholesterol, sugar and omega-6 fatty acids are well publicized, other biochemical messengers of stress may also be lurking in our foods. For example, stressed hens tend to lay eggs with higher levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone that’s part of the same family as cortisol. Ingested corticosterone carries forward the hormonal effects within the animal that consumes it. Research has shown that humans who consume cortisol analogues for medical use over a long period of time will develop stress-related diseases.

Similarly, human consumption of the plant stress hormone ethylene warrants further investigation. Scientific data from the 1920s, when ethylene was used as an anesthetic agent, suggest that it has many biologic effects on humans, including hypertension, pain relief and water retention, which also happen to be some of the effects of cortisol. Factories make more than 100 million metric tons of ethylene each year for various industries, including the food industry—making it the most commercially-synthesized chemical on the planet.

The Low Stress Food Diet

A low-stress food (LSF) diet involves focusing on the quality or character of the food, regardless of what type of food you eat. Specifically, the food’s origin matters. When was it harvested? How was it treated? What was done to it? Eating an LSF diet means minimizing your exposure to foods that have been put through heavy stress—during cultivation to distribution to preparation—before arriving on your plate.

Think about what is least likely to cause stress to your food. Whole foods would be better than processed foods. Choose plants that were grown in the season and soil in which they evolved. Choose food animals that were raised in cage-free, free-range conditions. Animals raised on natural feed, such as grass instead of corn, would be preferred. Wild meats and fish would be better than farmed. Since freezing or cooking in high heat can cause oxidative stress on foods, raw foods might be better, too. Long transport times and distances also induce oxidative stress on foods.

Ideally, a LSF diet means eating thoughtfully raised, local products as close as possible to the vine or farm. Undeniably, that’s an ideal and there are challenges of geography, seasonality, expense and convenience. The foundations of our contemporary, factory-produced diet did not appear overnight. It will take time to replace the sources of harmful, high-stress foods with healthier, fresher alternatives. The good news is that healthy grocery stores and farmers markets are starting to spring up nationwide.

Consider making some of these dietary improvements:

Republished from Edible Silicon Valley

Photo by Rachel Saldana

Food, we love you.

Featured Stories

Posted on 29th Aug, 2014by Andrea Cutright

GET POPCART! For the grocery shopper we always wanted to be

GET POPCART! For the grocery shopper we always wanted to be

Last week, Foodily launched POPCART for FreshDirect, the first ever bookmarklet that lets you instantly buy every ingredient you need from any recipe you find online. Popcart is our answer to making it easier for everyone to turn their recipe inspirations into real meals that they make at home.

What we’ve seen in the last week is how quickly that help can be embraced. POPCART has added close to 10,000 ingredients to FreshDirect grocery carts from thousands of different recipes. That’s a lot of instant shopping.

We discovered too that it’s not just important to eliminate the work of racing around a store buying all the ingredients for a recipe, but how solving that problem actually let’s us shop and eat the way we want to. How were people inspired last week? Take a gander:

Did you say vegetables? You did.

Vegetables were 50% of the top 50 ingredients. The top 5 vegetables this last week were cucumber, red onion, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes and arugula. Those are seasonal items and also more cost efficient.

Go strong on flavor

Herbs were 5 of the 25 ingredients and show growing trend of adding more fresh flavor to our foods, especially in the summer. The #1 flavor addition was [organic] garlic.

Sure, there was chicken

Chicken was the top protein ordered last week. But while we’re eating more vegetables, we’re also exploring plenty of protein diversity. Chicken was followed by eggs, shrimp, ground beef, bacon, and salmon

Recipes bought on over 300 different sites

Where did people buy recipes? Everywhere! From magazine sites to blogs and even some other grocer and meal delivery sites. Just goes to show how broad our individual inspiration is and what we choose to eat on any given day.

What’s next for POPCART?

One thing we’ve heard from POPCART users today is how important it is to have this solution for our mobile devices so you can shop for recipes instantly while on the go. We look forward to many more improvements for POPCART for FreshDirect that make online recipe collections more useful and more actionable in real life!

Oh – and for your viewing pleasure – here are some of the top shopped recipes from the last week:


Cucumber Dill Salad by Cookie and Kate

Greek Chicken Kabobs by My Baking Addiction

Food, we love you.

Featured Stories

Posted on 4th Aug, 2014by Andrea Cutright

Introducing POPCART for FreshDirect

Introducing POPCART for FreshDirect

We know the web is the #1 resource for home cooks but when you go from online inspiration to real life shopping, buying the ingredients can take hours and be a deterrent to getting a great meal on the table. Who hasn’t shown up at the store with a paper list only to discover one forgotten key ingredient at home?

Providing the tools to move from inspiration to cooking has long been part of our vision. We’ve heard feedback from our users time and again that they’d love to ditch the grocery list and get recipe ingredients delivered instantly. That’s a problem we wanted to solve.

The First Ever Way To Shop Any Recipe Instantly

That’s why we’re excited to announce one more important piece of the Foodily vision: POPCART for FreshDirect. POPCART is the first ever way to instantly grocery shop any recipe you find online. You can discover a recipe you love and have ingredients delivered as early as the next day by FreshDirect, a leader in online grocery shopping.

1. It’s free to use.
2. It works on any online recipe.
3. You can swap out products that you don’t like.
4. You can see the total price of a recipe. Finally!
5. FreshDirect has the highest quality products and customer service.



Here’s how to use it



You’ll also see Buy At FreshDirect buttons when you discover recipes on Foodily if you’re in the FreshDirect deliver zones (Are you in the FreshDirect deliver area? Check here to see if you are).

We’ll have more to share in the coming months, but we’re incredibly excited about what’s ahead in helping everyone seamlessly discover and shop for the recipes they love. Stay tuned!

Food, we love you.

Featured Stories

Posted on 19th May, 2014by Andrea Cutright

What to do with all this: Fennel

What to do with all this: Fennel

3 oranges and 20 fennel bulbs in my CSA Box! Oh yeah!

Maybe you’re not as enthusiastic when this happens to you? Embrace fresh fennel because it has so many positives. It’s a beautiful plant with some real curves. It has those lacy, delicate fronds. It tastes like completely matured celery, able to buy its own liquor. [Note: Finocchio is the Italian name for Fennel and it's earned it's own Urban Dictionary entry]

You’ve probably eaten it in a salad or 100. Maybe with some citrus? There’s no denying that’s good – but it’s not going to help you plow through 20 bulbs. Here are 8 favorite ideas for a marvelous fennel frenzy.

Dont forget the mandoline!

Fennel tart

Grilled Fennel Tarts by Spoon Fork Bacon
Braised fennel

Braised Fennel by Orangette

Braised Fennel by Simply Recipes
Pickled fennel
Fennel cocktails

Rhubarb Fennel Fizz by The Year In Food

The Best Bloody Mary by The Bitten Word
Fennel and pasta

Simple Fennel Soup by Running With Tweezers
Fennel gratin

Fennel Gratin Recipe by Food Republic

Fennel Gratin by Saveur

Photograph by Celine Steen

Food, we love you.