Reading Labels and Understanding Terms – Part 1 Organic/Natural

reading food label

As Americans become more health conscious, naturally one of the areas they should pay close attention to is the food they consume. One way to get a better grasp on what we are actually putting in our bodies is through reading the labels on our food. If you don’t read labels, you are leaving your nutrition and health to the whims of chance. But by looking at the contents of your food, you are able to make informed, educated decisions about what you eat. In order to do this accurately, you need to know exactly what the label is explaining.

Who is Overseeing the Definitions of the Terms Organic and Natural?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are tasked with the job of regulating the safety of food and how it is “processed, packaged, and labeled”. (The USDA regulates meat, poultry, and eggs while the FDA handles other foods.) The Nutrition Facts Label that you see on most foods usually includes the following items to help with food selection and dietary considerations:

• Serving size
• Servings per container
• Calories (and calories from fat) per serving
• Total fat (including saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats)
• Cholesterol
• Sodium
• Sugars
• Protein
• Vitamins and Minerals (such as Iron).

Organic Produce and Meats

If you are checking the labels and classifications of your food, chances are you may have seen a few terms crop up—organic and natural. As “health food” became a major trend, the FDA has found it necessary to regulate what these terms mean in the legal sense. They have been in the process of defining these terms and it looks like a revamp to the terminology may be coming very soon. In 2000, the term “organic” was clarified as being any food that is “free of synthetic chemicals”. Produce can be called “organic” if it was grown on soil without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides for three years prior to the harvesting of the food. Meats can be classified as organic if they come from animals that are not given antibiotics or hormones and are raised on properties that allow them to freely graze.

Furthermore, organic food can be classified as either 100% organic, organic, or “made with organic ingredients” depending on the percentage of organic ingredients that fit into these categories.

This is already very close to the FDA’s proposed definition of “natural” which involves three points:

• No artificial preservatives
• No genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
• No irradiated food (that which is dosed with x-rays to kill bacteria).

However, while there may be some crossover with the definitions, it is already expected that it could be a boost for the natural food industry as a “2016 Consumer Report survey says [consumers were] even more likely to buy natural over organic“ foods.

Once this official definition is put in place, expect to start seeing more common use in grocery stores across the country. And be sure to look at the labels on your food so that you understand exactly what went into making your food.Read Food Lbels and Understand Terms

4 Tips for Reading Food Labels:

1) Start with the ingredient list.
2) Look for foods that have five or fewer ingredients.
3) Avoid artificial colors, preservatives and additives. These add no nutritional benefit outside of increasing shelf stability and enhancing food taste/appearance.
4) Ingredients should be whole foods.

We hope you find these tips and information helpful.  Part two of reading labels and understanding terms will cover pesticides and GMO’s.

Do You Have the Mind of an ND?

Naturopathic medicine is gaining attention in the media as people seek out alternative routes to solving their health problems. But it is also getting more attention because of the opportunities that it provides people for career paths. Regulated naturopathic healthcare is attracting more and more potential students to the field because of the flexible schedules and opportunities to make a difference in the community that come with this area of medicine. Could naturopathic medicine be the right path for you? If you are considering this exciting area, here are a few things you need to know about what makes for a great naturopathic doctor.

A Holistic Approach

One of the main tenets of an ND’s practice is taking a holistic approach to treating patients. NDs treat the whole person, looking at how different systems and ailments are interconnected. In addition, NDs are more likely to take a team approach to treatment, looking at a variety of causes for health problems with help from many specialties.

Nutrition and Exercise

An important feature of an ND’s work is the reliance on nutrition and exercise to promote a healthy lifestyle. Naturopathic doctors are often called upon to act as educators, teaching their patients how to take care of themselves by showing them what they should and should not eat and how they can best exercise.

Mind-Body Connection

NDs look to treat both the mind and the body. Many naturopathic medical clinics feature ways of treating not only physical ailments, but mental and spiritual problems as well. These can include treatments for PTSD at veteran’s clinics or domestic abuse centers as well as providing safe spaces for migrants and the LGBTQ community.

Stress Management

Naturopathic medicine takes a proactive approach to health care, noting the importance to prevent ailments before they occur. Recognition of the role of stress in illness and teaching patients lifelong skills in stress management is core to naturopathic treatment plans. Mind-body medicine approaches are tailored to the individual patient in order to mitigate tension before it impacts our health.

Natural Approaches and Herbal Medicine

If you are thinking about becoming a naturopathic physician, you will need to become knowledgeable in natural approaches to treatment. NDs make it a point to seek out the gentlest treatments for their patients, reserving more invasive methods as a means of last resort. Herbal medicine is a key tool in the naturopathic tool belt. NDs honor cultural botanical medicine practices with modern advances in botanical research.

We’ve talked about the various areas licensed naturopathic physicians need to know in order to be a great ND and there are a few common characteristics of successful naturopathic medical students :

• Strong academic background
• Excellent communicators
• Socially conscious
• Passionate for disease prevention
• Inquisitive and excited to find the root cause of illness
• Recognizes the power of a holistic approach to patient care

All of these characteristics will help lead you into a rewarding career in the exciting field of naturopathic medicine. Find out exactly what the path to a career in naturopathic medicine looks like for you by visiting

Windowsill Herb Gardens: What You Need to Know

It’s that time of year – fresh herb plants are displayed outside of nearly every home improvement and gardening store. You’re probably tempted to smell the aromas but maybe don’t have the time to commit to a full-blown garden. Gardening can be a chore. But what if it didn’t have to be? If you are interested in a low-maintenance way to enjoy the benefits of fresh herbs – a windowsill herb garden may be the way to go!

Whether you live in a tight studio apartment in the city or on an acreage, chances are you may have a spot for a plant or two with a little creativity. With a windowsill garden, you have the luxury of fresh-grown herbs at your fingertips. Not only is this convenient, but provides cost saving as well. Furthermore, you can control what your plants are exposed to so you know exactly what you are consuming.

Let’s take a closer look at windowsill herb gardening: what to grow, how to grow it, and how to harvest and enjoy your produce!

Popular windowsill garden herbs:

  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Sweet Basil
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Dill

Step 1: Planting your garden

You may buy the seed packets and sprout the herbs yourself, or if you aren’t that patient you may purchase a small starter plant. In either case, plant each herb in an individual pot with at least four inches of soil to allow for root growth. The pot should have drainage holes and something to catch water drips. Place your herb garden in a South-facing window with moderately warm temperature. Do not allow the plants to touch the windows as changes in outdoor temperatures may be detrimental.

Let your pot express your style!

Who says you need to stick to a boring clay pot? Jazz up your planters to match your taste, whether that’s a vintage tin can, coffee mugs or even an aluminum bucket – have fun with your herb garden. At the end of the day the herb garden is about you – what you want to eat, how you want to grow it, and how you want it to look.

Step 2: Nurture your plants

Now that your plant has taken root, you need to continue to nurture it by maintaining moist soil. Overwatering can be just as dangerous as underwatering. In fact, err on the side of letting the top couple inches of your plant get dry before moistening.

Pinching is another component of nurturing some of the herbs in your garden. Basil is just one example. Pinching is done by using your thumb and forefinger to remove growth shoots This process encourages lateral growth resulting in a more compact and a less leggy plant. If you do not pinch back herbs they will bloom. Blooming sends a signal to the plant to stop growing new leaves. Furthermore, once bloomed the flavor of the leaves may become more bitter.

Step 3: Harvest your garden

Aw, it’s finally time to reap the benefits of your herb garden! You may eat the pieces of the herb that are pinched from the plant and removed from new windowsill herb gardensprouts. Your herb garden may produce more herbs than you can consume at once. Freezing and drying herbs is a great way to preserve herbs.

Recipe: Vegan Homemade Pesto

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted walnuts or pine nuts
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Place basil, nuts garlic salt, lemon juice and nutritional yeast in that order in a food processor or high-speed blender. Pulse until combined, gradually adding oil. Pulse until smooth.

*Tip: Pesto is a great way to use up extra basil. Freezing in ice cube trays and storing in an airtight container is one way to incorporate your herbs year-round.

Enjoy the benefits of knowing your herbs have not been exposed to pesticides or chemicals adding another level of health benefit to your diet.  Naturopathic doctors study nutrition as well as educate patients on how to eat for optimal health.  If you’d like to learn more about a career in naturopathic medicine, check out

The Root of Naturopathic Medicine

root of naturopathic medicineAs we continue into this new century, it seems that we are finally turning the corner on decades of unhealthy living. High-calorie diets full of fatty, processed foods are giving way to organic, wholesome foods. Years and years of less than healthy dietary decisions have left us with a healthcare crisis that sees over one-third of Americans dealing with obesity and related issues such as diabetes, heart and kidney diseases, and strokes which is costing us billions a year in health care costs and lost work profits. If you are one of those who sees this growing crisis and wants to be part of the solution, then naturopathic medicine may be the best field choice for you.

If you are just setting out to learn more about becoming a naturopathic doctor (ND), there are a few terms you need to become familiar with. The first of these is “therapeutic order.” This term is a naturopathic philosophy usually visualized as being like a pyramid. The framework is intended to work in the best interests of the patient, going through stages from least invasive to most invasive treatments.therapeutic order

Another aspect prospective students should be familiar with are the six guiding principles of naturopathic medicine. If you have any doubts about whether naturopathic medicine is the right path for you, consider how much you believe these six principles and whether they guide you in your personal beliefs.

1. First, do no harm. A naturopathic doctor uses the most natural therapies at his or her disposal and avoids more invasive and topic treatments when not medically indicated.

2. The healing power of nature. A naturopathic doctor works as a partner with the patient to restore the body’s inherent wisdom to heal.

3. Identify and treat the causes. A naturopathic doctor looks beyond the symptoms to the underlying cause.

4. Doctor as teacher. A naturopathic doctor educates patients to achieve and maintain health on their own.

5. Treat the whole person. A naturopathic doctor views the body as an integrated whole in all its physical and psychospiritual dimensions.

6. Prevention. A naturopathic doctor focuses on overall health, wellness, and disease prevention.

3-Steps-for-Naturopathic-Doctor-CareerMany prospective students are familiar with what goes into a traditional medical education but are ultimately unaware of how that translates into naturopathic medicine. In reality, there are many similarities including:

• Specialties—Just as a medical doctor may specialize in dermatology or pediatrics, a naturopathic doctor can specialize in a variety of areas including pediatrics, oncology, gastroenterology and more.

• Methodology—Most medical appointments, both traditional and naturopathic, begin with an examination, assessment, and diagnosis. What separates naturopathic medicine is that this is usually a much deeper experience, often lasting for upwards of one hour. This allows the ND to get a fuller picture of the patient’s problems and lifestyle, helping with larger scale treatments. It is also what draws many students to the field since they don’t want to see patient after patient with no time to connect with them.

• Patients—The biggest area of similarity is with the lasting impact that you can have on the lives of your patients. There are numerous success stories from patients who have been successfully treated by NDs. It is these success stories that most people point to as proof of why they went into the profession.

Students are looking at the current movement in healthcare as a chance to get in on the ground floor of a major change in an entrenched system. By putting a new spin on older, traditional forms of medicine, these students and doctors have a chance to revolutionize the system in the 21st century.

If you would like more information on how to become a licensed naturopathic medical doctor in North America, please visit!

What is the NMSA?


Written by: Blake Langley, NMSA President, 2018-19

It was four years ago that I first became involved with the Naturopathic Medical Student Association. One day, the Chapter President of NUNM notified me that I was nominated for and voted into the position of Social Events Coordinator – all without truly understanding what that meant. In my first year of leadership… we will just say I failed miserably. The learning curve was great, I was unfamiliar with the vision of the NMSA, and school was my top priority. It wasn’t until I helped get the first annual Black Tie for the FLI fundraiser event going that I was caught – hook, line, and sinker. The NMSA was where students could get together to enjoy their community outside of the study area or classroom.

Onto the next years, I rose in leadership positions from NUNM Chapter Secretary to International CAO to International President-Elect, and I now serve as NMSA International President. My understanding of what the NMSA is and does has dramatically changed as I have become more involved in the organization. At its very root, the NMSA holds to the values of Empowerment, Community, Impact, and Integrity which influence our every decision. With representation from each CNME-accredited naturopathic medical school in North America, the NMSA becomes the unified voice of naturopathic medical students at the planning tables of the profession while bringing educational and revitalizing events to the individual campuses. More than anything, the NMSA creates a space where students can join and collaborate on what most affects them: receiving quality education, developing leadership skills, and gaining access to opportunities that will aid them in their future practice.

Simply put, the NMSA offers travel grants, scholarships, Fellowships, intercollegiate competitions, exciting Naturopathic Medicine Week events, and a professional annual conference in conjunction with our national partner organizations. Access to these opportunities is what NMSA members appreciate most: the ability to further develop their skills and education of their own accord. On an organizational level, the International Board of Directors seeks out opportunities for the student voice to be heard, such as with the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC), American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), Institute for Natural Medicine (INM), state associations, and more. With many of these organizations, the NMSA holds a position within their Board of Directors to provide feedback and input into the directives of the organizations our student members will be members and leaders of in the next 4-6 years. For those willing and able to serve on the Board of Directors at a local or international level, they will receive extensive training on the inner workings of a 501(c)3 non-profit, what the legal and developmental aspects of things like contract and grant writing look like, and standard code of conduct of professional organizations. As students, most do not have this opportunity and the NMSA promotes the cultivation of those leadership skills.

Without a doubt, the NMSA thrives on the diversity of student voice. A Board of Directors from an array of school sizes and educational practices, and with a multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-gendered, and multi-talented team, the NMSA strives and achieves representing the diverse population of naturopathic medical students in a way that is unique and valuable. In the coming years, the NMSA plans to further advance scholarship access, expand representation within more organizations, and develop member benefit development to ensure our students graduate from school with the best possible toolkit and with the confidence in their ability to lead, teach, and heal. The NMSA is always looking for feedback and recommendations from students and we urge you to contact or to contact me at

Oh the Places You’ll Go With an ND Degree

global community health

There are so many reasons why people choose to follow a career path in health care, from the wide range of job opportunities to the chance to be on the cutting edge of science and technology. But for many, it is the sense of giving back to the community that motivates them to go into medicine. For naturopathic doctors, this is especially true, as evidenced by the outgrowth of community clinics and outreach programs affiliated with accredited ND programs. If you are considering going into the naturopathic medical field, having a passion to help others is tantamount to the mission of naturopathy.

One of the basic tenets of naturopathic medicine is education—teaching your patients and those you come in contact with about how to live a healthier life. As a result of this, many people are drawn to the profession looking for a chance to make a change in people’s lives. If you choose to go into a naturopathic medical career, you will have the opportunity to directly impact your home community or take your volunteer spirit international with a “Peace Corps” style program to treat and educate patients in developing countries. In addition to the educational services that are a hallmark of Naturopathic Medicine, you will also be able to take part in the following specialty programs:

• Nutritional Health—NDs realize there may not be one root cause of a medical problem, but instead multiple causes that need to be treated in combination. One of these is nutritional health, a field that many people need education in. By specializing in this area, you can work in a nutritional center helping to bring healthier eating habits to different communities.

• Major Disease Treatment—HIV and cancer are two diseases that are ravaging many communities. As a naturopathic doctor, you will have the opportunity to specialize in the treatments of these diseases, using natural therapies and treatments to help ease the symptoms and side effects associated with these diseases.

• Domestic Violence Clinics—One of the specialized areas that some NDs choose to follow is the field of domestic violence treatment. These clinics provide a safe space for families suffering abuse to be treated for physical ailments while at the same time also receiving treatment for mental issues associated with abuse. As with all of the Naturopathic Medical programs, these use a team approach to bring together multiple specialties to treat the whole patient.

• Drug Treatment Programs—Currently the country is under the shadow of an opioid drug epidemic. Naturopathic Medicine has a tradition of helping in this area by offering non-opioid pathways for treating pain. By incorporating holistic health care with Eastern traditions such as acupuncture, these naturopathic drug treatment programs will give you the opportunity to do your part to combat this major national crisis. NDs also offer integrative approaches to assisting patients struggling with addiction in addressing the root cause.

• Veteran Programs—If you are interested in traditional medicine, then one pathway is to work with community clinics and programs helping to treat our vets who have served their country and now need medical assistance. This is also the case with naturopathic doctors who choose to work to treat vets for a variety of issues including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain.

• International Service—Naturopathic Medicine affords opportunities to travel overseas to treat patients with programs such as Naturopaths Without Borders (NWB) and Natural Doctors International.

NDs flexible global health opportunities• Special Community Clinics—In addition to the opportunity to travel overseas, many naturopathic schools are offering special clinics designed to treat immigrant populations from around the world living here in the United States. Besides these clinics, others are being created to help serve the LGBTQ community by giving them a safe, discrimination-free clinical experience for their individual needs.

The future job prospects for naturopathic medicine are growing and are expected to continue to grow as well. If you are interested in pursuing a career in naturopathic medicine, you will be joining an exciting field that is poised to help local and international communities access safe and effective natural medicine. For more information about each naturopathic medical college’s community health clinics, please click links below:

Bastyr University
Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
National University of Natural Medicine
National University of Health Sciences
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine
University of Bridgeport