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Our Approach

 OUR APPROACH
  • Clean Label  Providing consumers a clean label product is one our guiding principals, as we believe what is not in our product is just as important as what is in our product. 
    • No Artificial Preservatives.  Interestingly enough, we are able to achieve a relatively long shelf-life and do so without artificial preservative.  To address food safety and microbial concerns in our Buk Gluten Free Breads, we rely on (a) Vitamin C which is added at levels unheard of in gluten breads (generally > 100mg), (b) the antibacterial properties of certain fatty acid found in some of our ingredients, and (c) various organic acids naturally occurring in our ingredients like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, cultured wheys and flours, and dried fruit like raisins and prunes.    
    • No Creepy Gums.   Although commonly used with many of our competitor's gluten-free products, we do not use xanthan gum as a gluten-replacer or binding agent.  Xanthum gum is a secretion from a strange bacteria, and there is something that seems extremely unnatural about it.  Likewise, we avoid similar, commonly used but equally strange gums that don't seem natural.  
  • Low Sodium, Salts, Baking Soda
    • Studies show that American's currently consume 62% more sodium than is recommended by the FDA. Yet, the mainstream food industry uses little imagination or discipline when addressing the issue.  Salt (sodium chloride) is simply one of the easiest ways to make bad tasting food tastier and increase shelf life.  Sodium bicarbonate is also the active ingredient regular baking powder, which ubiquitously found in non-yeast leaven baked goods. 
    • While the FDA has clear guidance for labeling products "low sodium", our models indicate that "low sodium" really is not very low at all.  Even if you eat mostly "low sodium" foods, it is highly likely you will still exceed the FDA's daily value of 2100 mg per day.  Anyway, because of this, at Ojai Natural Foods
*  our yeast leaven breads are all "low sodium" (< 140mg per serving) not just because "salt is bad" but because we feel that we can achieve superior flavor profiles, meet consumer expectation, adequately address food safety concerns without it.  Our chefs, bakers, and formulators just have to work harder to do it!
* our non-yeast leaven products are also all "low in sodium"  as we use potassium based baking powder and soda.  Again, difficult and expensive to formulate but much healthier for our customers and their families to consume.   
  • Flours, grains, seeds
    • We use gluten-free pseudo-grains and seeds to address concerns related to gluten intolerance and other unhealthy side effects related to consumption of gluten.  
    • We also use soaking and sprouting to address concerns related to phytic acid, phytate, anti-nutrient issues sometimes associated with grains and seeds. 
  • Sugar -  we believe that one of the main problems with "western diet" and health is that there is too much sugar in processed foods. 
    • Labeling.  We believe that consumers need to limit the amount of sugar in their diet even if the sugars are from natural sources.   Unfortunately, current FDA labeling guidelines make it difficult for consumers to sort out sugar hiding in the food they consume.  At Ojai Natural Food, our product labels clearly inform the consumer what percentage of the overall calories in the food come from sugars - regardless of whether they are natural, added or otherwise.  Anyway, we think this approach is clever and useful. 
    • Discipline and restraint.  While eliminating sugar from our food is clearly impractical, we see the need for food manufacturers to use discipline and restraint in how much sugar is added is included. 
    • Source.  We rely on honey, dried fruits (dates, figs, raisins) and other naturally sweet, non-sugar ingredients like stevia when formulating sweetbreads.   We avoid sugar beets, sugar cane, even molasses, and obviously, corn and fructose syrup would never be an ingredient in our food.
  • Fats - the problem is Saturated and Omega-6 Fatty Acids.  

    Ojai Natural Foods, like many others, believes that many of American's dietary issues with fats stem not so much from the consumption of too much fat but excessive consumption of the wrong types of fats - mainly saturated fats (found mainly in animal meats and dairy) and Omega-6 unsaturated fats - both of which we have a negative bias and formulate to limit.
    • Saturated Fats.   The FDA has a negative bias towards saturated fats as the as the "science" is long-standing, well known and well accepted. However, current research seems to indicate that the "medium length" saturated fats may actually be good for you as they are absorbed by the body differently than the "long chain" saturated fats that are more difficult to assimilate   We heed the FDA guidance on saturated fats and generally formulate our foods in a way to qualify for the nutritional claim "low in saturated fats."  If and when we do use ingredients with saturated fats, we steer toward those with higher levels of medium chain saturated fats - like coconut oils - to be more safe.
    • Omega-6 Fats.  The FDA does not, however, have a negative bias on Omega-6 fatty acids as the science is not as conclusive as they need to take action.  Omega-6 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid or PUFA that is found in high percentage in "Modern Vegetable Oils" and commonly used in the food industry because they are cheap and have an unnaturally long shelf life.  Critics of Omega-6 PUFAs (and there are many) suggest that such fats "may promote harmful cell inflammation" and blame such fats for a litany of serious ailments. Critics often use the word "may" so as not to run afoul with regulators, who clearly do not share this negative view on these fats, and to acknowledge that such bad effects may not be universal.  Nonetheless, we think the science on Omega-6 fatty acid quoted by the critics and many others is credible and would rather err on the side of caution.  Hence, we take this into consideration when choosing ingredients.  
Anyway, our food formulations take the current approach related to fats. We concur to FDA guidance on overall fat consumption and agree that at least 30% of an individual's daily calories should come from fats.  We also take a more good, less bad approach to specific fatty acids and 
    • Limit Saturated fats with a bias toward ingredients with high proportions of the medium length saturated fatty acids.  
    • Limit Omega-6 PUFAs
    • Avoid ingredients with Trans fats and dietary cholesterol to reasons that are commonly understood.
    • Favor using ingredients with high levels of
      • Omega-3 PUFAs, whose health benefits are known to the consuming public, and
      • Monounsaturated fats, whose health benefits are just starting to gain public interest and found in ingredients like pumpkin seeds, sesame seed, and olive oil.    

This is our formulation approach to fats.  While based on science, we are unable to make nutritional or health claim related to much of this approach as the science is not settled to the satisfaction of the FDA - who, as you might expect, move rather slowly when setting national policy.  Although we are constrained in sharing the rationale for our enthusiasm, we continue to formulate in a manner to deliver consumers nutritious foods 

Good news is that food regulators have also signaled a change in their approach to fats with the FDA acknowledging that "the science related to public health recommendations ... has evolved" and that they no longer see their 1993 "low fat" regulatory approach as being a prerequisite of a "healthy diet".  Rather, they now believe that foods that are not "low fat" could still be healthy provided "the sum of the monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are greater than the total saturated fat content of the food" and meet other nutritional targets.  This is a good sign, in and of itself, and heralds good thing to come from FDA actions in 20 years.  However, the FDA is not able or willing to fight a battle against the Omega-6 PUFA lobby, clearly politically an impossible task.   For more information on fats, see this post.